I will not describe it in detail here, as many sources described it
than me. I refer you to the
Linux Weekly News review, or
their news section
contains links to other editorials. Basically, what the
SSSCA says is that all digital devices and computer software must
implement mandatory provisions for copyright protection. Breaking
those provisions, or not implementing them in the first place,
could result in an indictment under civil or even criminal law.
Let's imagine a world in which the SSSCA has been passed (in the U.S.
for the time), and it has taken effect. What would happen? Here's my
predictions based on the commonplace interpretation of the law:
Most existing software and hardware systems becoming illegal.
This includes open-source and commercial software. Windows XP,
latest operating system lets people hear "pirated" mp3s, or doesn't it?
Then, obviously it has to go.
( A correspondent of mine implied that they will only become
and still can be used without restrictions. But releasing new versions
them would be impossible. As time does not stand still, and new software
has to accommodate for the changes, it will eventually have the same
Hardware and software vendors will need to invest a lot of money in
copyright protection into their products.
Someone will have to finance this development, and later on converting
legacy systems into the SSSCA-sound devices.
This someone is the U.S. Government. It is one of the foundation of the
democratic process that the government must finance the actions that
needed to be taken to implement a given act. Software vendors cannot
the SSSCA's provisions for free, so they will demand the U.S. government
I'm not really good at approximating things like that, but I think this
amount of money can easily surpass the current U.S. Budget. And I mean
entire budget, defense budget and all.
Assuming they are forced to switch, then people will have to put up with
computers, that are not quite those that they were used to. Not only
Moore's Law will be temporarily reversed, but those systems will not put
with many actions that are considered mundane and day-to-day now. Even
that are perfectly sound copyright-wise.
This will make everybody unhappy and they demand the law to be changed.
Most programmers or text-book writers I am familiar with cannot comply
with the SSSCA's terms. It was proven that it is cryptologically
to create a non-breakable copyright protection scheme. Trying to mess
their code with an ad-hoc heuristic imposed by the government is not
idea of being productive.
The result: a massive brain drain of engineers from the U.S. If you
that because of the recession there is a surplus of programmers, think
There is still a genuine lack of _good_ and qualified ones. And those are
the exact ones which would prefer to abandon the U.S. in favour of a
which gives them more freedom to program.
Do you think that a different outcome can happen? It is possible that
SSSCA will exist on paper but won't be enforced until someone is
to commit a crime against it. But obviously the Free Software
can sue Microsoft for manufacturing an operating system that violates
intellectual property. After all, I can use Notepad to remove the
notice off one of gcc's files. Which is a clear violation even of
When the SSSCA was first heard of (in its previous incarnation) some
thought that Microsoft would be happy to see it because it will render
existing free software illegal. But even Microsoft cannot to put up with
the terms of the SSSCA. Microsoft would rather be a company whose
products are possibly threatened by Linux, than a monopoly which will
manufacture a practically useless operating system that could only
exist in Sen. Ernest Hollings' imagination.
Obviously #7 will probably happen a long time before the law takes into
And I think it is a good thing, because then:
- Everybody will take about intellectual property laws and their
implication on computers.
- Hackers who strive for political freedom will become media icons.
Remember when Linus Torvalds appeared on the cover of Forbes?
Now think of Richard M. Stallman on the cover of Time magazine.
- People will become interested in other IP laws that violate their
individual rights. Acts such as the DMCA, or the UCITA, or the
restrictions on encryption or previous copyright legislation that is
bluntly illegal (objectively speaking) may actually become headline
Which means: more publicity for us! And a greater chance of getting
to move there.
Don't get me wrong, I don't encourage the U.S. legislation to make the
into law. But I think it may actually serve as a turning point for those
strive for digital freedom of expression. We should criticize it
as much and as hardly as we can, but even if it passes it won't be the
the world, but rather the beginning of a wonderful era.
The other possibility would be that Sen. Hollings et. al will decide to
the SSSCA incrementally by one irrational provision at a time. But I
believe this will only make the process slower, but the final outcome
inevitable as it is. Many people who download mp3s illegally would agree
it is the right thing not to do it. But they would much more think that
they should be given a choice whether to do it or not.
I have one piece of advice to Sen. Hollings, Disney's CEO, Michael
Eisner and all the other people who have expressed support of the SSSCA.
how to program. This is not only enlightening and mind-exercising, but
a very practical skill. After you have learned how to program, I want
make your code or commonly used code SSSCA-friendly.
I'd like you to take the Meta-Circular Evaluator of the classic text
"Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" and make sure it
does not execute copyrighted code. I'd like you to take GNU echo and
sure it does not prints copyrighted expressions to the screen. (you may
actually find it useful to start from agrep). I want you to take gcc
and make sure it does not compile code that one does not own the
to. And I want you to make sure your own pet programs and script follow
Then I want you to let me know how you felt doing that. I know I would
feel that it would be a complete waste of time if my own
had to make sure it respects the copyrights of layouts it receives
as input. Worse yet, I may have to make sure it does not inspect such
boards at mid-run. FYI, Freecell Solver can scale to millions of
boards (which are all valid Freecell states) during a mundane run, and
I have to make sure I check each one.
If I had to comply with the SSSCA, I would rather be jailed before I
such a disaster in it. (seriously) If the U.S. Government would
well-being of thousands of engineers and millions of users just so Walt
Corp. would be happy, then I'd rather get rid of the U.S. Government,
is actually a relatively benevolent and productive corporation as far as
tell), than the American or world-wide public.
So, fire away I say to Sen. Hollings. Unless, of course, he actually
want to remain in one piece afterwards.
Seriously now, I'd rather see the public start opposing the SSSCA before
is enacted as law. How do we do it? By lobbying. Is there anything wrong
lobbying? Not unless there's anything wrong with talking. Here's a
example: suppose you wrote a good screenplay and wish it to be
as a movie. You can either send it to the Disney/WB/Paramount/etc. box
wait for a reply, which you probably won't get.
Or: you can travel to Hollywood, try to talk with other people who hold
some power in the studios, tell them about your story; ask them to read
it or your favourite parts; improve what they don't like and gradually
think of ways to improve it; gradually have more people know about the
story and eventually have the higher people notice you. This way will
probably work better than just sending it by mail or E-mail and hoping
best. Likewise for politics.
We should get as many people as possible that can be concerned by the
to know about it, and criticize it at public. Furthermore, those people
propagate it further up the line. I.e: we should let Military engineers
aware of it, and let them tell their commander about it. If a commander
about the SSSCA from 3 different engineers, he will become suspicious of
himself. If you actually know a general or an ex-general (or admiral,
yeah) tell him about it, and see what he makes from it. Now, substitute
paragraph with the Tech Firms (not necessarily info tech), or Police, or
Local Municipalities or generally equivalent.
Like it or not, we have become dependent on computers. And like it or
the SSSCA will make using and developing them impossible. So, let the
know, so legislators will notice and we can get rid of this crap.
And like I said earlier, it will give us a higher ground to further
our fight for individual rights. I cannot force you to contribute to its
success ("Defame the SSSCA today!" and all this crap) but it does sound
realistic to me. Still, don't rely on others to do the job for you.
Remember: we are not centralized but distributed. Every node is
You can start by writing an article about it while expressing your
rationally and benevolently. Then, publish it somewhere appropriate.
Life awaits you!
 - I'm not calling the SSSCA, in its new name,
because it has a very
horrid acronym. And it is basically the same law.
 - If you think about it, you can quickly realize
that it also "makes
sense". Naturally, it is not a proof, but should be convincing enough.
 - I used to worry about not getting a job after I
finish the Technion,
too. However, I was told that experienced Linux developers (which is the
case for me) are actually very hard to find in Israel. In fact, many
Windows programmers are hired only to force Linux down their throats.
 - The U.S. may pride itself on being a free country.
But becoming liberal
and maintaining liberalism is a process, not a declaration. While no
in the world today is perfect constitutionally, I believe there are many
countries in which a person can lead a free-er life than the U.S.
 - I'm not very fond of the latter. But he is one of
the most influential
and opinionated people in the free software/open-source world, so I
to give him as an example.
 - Sending mail to your representative does not work
as expected because
of the following reasons:
1. Representatives receive a lot of mail and E-mail containing many
starting from conspiracy theories to personal complaints (which may be
legitimate). It is probably that they will not notice the SSSCA.\
2. It is possible that they have bad intentions and wish to pass the
Evil people exist, and I believe most representatives fall into that
3. A representative is likely to be more influenced by people he knows
personally than from some random L. Torvalds hacker. We are dealing with
people here, not with Turing machines.