Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: Wranglings

Ten Years of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act

On the 28th of October, 1998, Bill Clinton signed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) in to law. And the technology industry was never the same. This week, it turns 10.

The Anti-Circumvention Provision
The purpose of the anti-circumvention provisions in the DMCA was to prevent copyright pirates from defeating copy protection (DRM) mechanisms. In reality, neither the DMCA nor DRM have done nothing to stop piracy on the Internet. The DMCA has had an effect though- a chilling one. An effect on innovation, fair use, competition, expression. Read the rest of this entry »

EFF Challenges Constitutionality of Telecom Immunity in Federal Court


No Such Agency...

EFF, fighting the good fight

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Thursday challenged the constitutionality of a law aimed at granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the president’s illegal domestic wiretapping program.

In a brief filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, EFF argues that the flawed FISA Amendments Act (FAA) violates the federal government’s separation of powers as established in the Constitution and robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law. Signed into law earlier this year, the FAA allows for the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms’ participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that either the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. Attorney General Michael Mukasey filed that classified certification with the court last month.

The constitutional challenge is set to be heard on December 2. EFF has more information on the NSA spying issue.

Habeas Corpus and Other Quaint Ideas From the Past

While I admit that there may be some geeky fashions and some fashion geeks, here at Science Addiction I try to stay away from fashion. But this one is different.

See, back in the 20th century- and in fact, much earlier- there used to be a quaint concept called Habeas Corpus that was quite in vogue. Now, along with the dot-com boom (renamed as Web2.0) and the Y2K crisis (renamed as Daylight Savings bug), this idea from the past is making a come back!

It’s all Greek to me, you say. Well, it’s Latin, young Geek. Habeas Corpus, literally translated as you have the body.

In the legal system, in many countries around the world including the United States, it means that a person detained by the government has the right to seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. The United States Constitution specifically states that it shall not be suspended, unless there is a rebellion or invasion and the public safety requires it.
Read the rest of this entry »

If Making Ramen Was Like Playing a Guitar

Wired columnist Jennifer Granick has a great article about how she “started thinking about what it would be like if there were an RIAA for ramen”:,71688-0.html?tw=rss.columns which leads her down some very interesting paths.

They’d form an association — say, the Ramen Industrial Alliance of Asia, or RIAA — and announce a clampdown on the proliferation of infringing noodle shops. Their arguments would echo the music industry’s. “The chefs who created ramen deserve to get paid for their creation,” they’d say. “These noodle shops are taking profits away from the creators, while peddling an often-inferior product to an unsuspecting public that believes they are getting real ramen.”

A Debate with the MPAA

The “#2 thesis on of my 95”: was that Violating a license agreement is not theft.

I got a lot of feedback about that one- many people made the point that it could be theft if it involved either loss of property or loss of potential income.

I grant both of those points- and I am not even close to being a lawyer- but my point still holds: Violating a license agreement could also be theft, but in my opinion, is not theft on its own.

The “BBC has a video debate”: between the MPAA President Dan Glickman and the EFF co-founder John Barlow on the subject, and while much of it treads familiar ground for those who follow this issue, it is especially interesting because the two opposing viewpoints have been presented together.

To get a better idea about “John Perry Barlow”: here are a few bits about him:
* Founded the “EFF”: in 1990.
* Was a lyricist for the “Grateful Dead”:
* His article on “The Economy of Ideas”: where he says

Intellectual property law cannot be patched, retrofitted, or expanded to contain digitized expression any more than real estate law might be revised to cover the allocation of broadcasting spectrum (which, in fact, rather resembles what is being attempted here). We will need to develop an entirely new set of methods as befits this entirely new set of circumstances.

* His “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”: where he writes:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

* And “more recently, more pointed”: remarks from him.

NSA Eavesdropping Ruled Unconstitutional (updated)

This is fantastic news- a federal judge ruled today that the “NSA eavesdropping program is unconstitutional”: in the case that the ACLU brought against it. The government contended that it was within the President’s authority, and the details were state secrets but the judge did not buy it. The ACLU argument was that the President had already admitted the program and the publicly available information was sufficient for the judge to rule on.

The judge ordered an immediate halt to the program.

* A “pdf of the judge’s ruling”:
* A quote from the judge:

Judge Taylor states that “[t]here are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution,” so all the president’s “inherent powers” must derive from the Constitution.

* Attorney General Gonzales “says he will appeal”: to a higher court. “Contribute to the ACLU”: to keep up the good fight.

Awkward Answers to the Songwriter’s Guild

The “Songwriters Guild”: President Rick Carnes recently wrote to the EFF, seemingly in response to their “Frequently Awkward Questions for for the Entertainment Industry”:

Rick Carnes has a point- and for the most part I agree with him. The trouble is that for the most part, the EFF agrees with him too! It is unfortunate that his frustration is directed at the EFF. If EFF upholds free speech and someone slanders you, do you fault the EFF for allowing slander or do you go after the person who you believe has wronged you? Fred von Lohmann of the EFF has “posted a response”: which touches on the issues at hand without directly answering the questions. While Fred may not want to get in to an internet brawl over semantics, I have no such qualms.

In any case, I am not against a lot of what Rick Carnes has written.

Carnes’ questions are titled (the typo is his): Aways Awkward questions for the EFF

And here are my responses. I do not claim to speak for the EFF- in fact, in some cases, my opinions may not coincide with theirs. I will answer these as though they were addressed to me. Also- *I am not a lawyer*, never claimed to be one and I may not know what I am talking about. But this is what I believe. Read the rest of this entry »

The Trouble with Diebold and Electronic Voting

First, take a look at this “graphic at Washington Post”: sensationally titled *How to Steal an Election*. It compares Nevada laws regarding slot machines with state and federal laws regulating electronic voting machines. The comparison is stark and eye-opening. For example, the Nevada Gaming Commission has access to all software for gaming electronics but the voting machine code is a _trade secret_. Yes, and so are the inner government workings of China.

And then there is the most famous of the voting machine manufacturers, “Diebold”: In addition to being a closed system that even the government is not allowed to know about, it is a company that fundamentally misunderstands electronic voting in particular and security in general.

For example, “this came from a Diebold spokesman”: [via Schneier]

“For there to be a problem here, you’re basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software,” he said. “I don’t believe these evil elections people exist.”

Ah yes, the head-in-the-sand form of security. I hear it is very popular in the real world and effective in utopian societies.

The fun and games do not end there. A “major vulnerability”: was found in the voting machines:

This newspaper is withholding some details of the vulnerability at the request of several elections officials and scientists, partly because exploiting it is so simple and the tools for doing so are widely available.

Of course, the “report appeared later on”: with parts redacted, and it is tremendous.

Privacy Policy Generator

The “Direct Marketing Association”: has a fantastic “Privacy Policy Generator”: on their web site which is a great tool for all webmasters/bloggers/administrators out there because sooner or later, you will need one for your site as well. Many advertisers require you to have one, many users will feel more comfortable if they can view yours and in general, it is a step in the right direction.

This tool asks you all the right questions regarding what personal information you collect on your site and what you intend to do with it. At the end, it will generate a personalized “Privacy Policy” for your site based on your answers. You can take a look at the one I had it “generate for my Star Wars web site”:

To Break Copy Protection, Ask Politely.

A few days ago, I had written about “a flawed copy protection scheme”: on the new “Dave Matthews Band CD”: which, if you have autorun enabled, installs itself on your computer and prevents copying. Key phrase is if you have autorun enabled. Also, it works fine on a “Mac”: – so maybe that’s the computer you should use :). I know I do.

Well, there’s an update to that story; apparently with a new technology (believe-it-or-not, it’s called First4Internet!), you can’t transfer the songs on to an iPod either UNLESS “you email Sony BMG and complain”: in which case you will get a nice email explaining how to circumvent the copy protection. Great- flawed technology for an unnecessary purpose built by people who tell you how to break it if asked politely.