Berman: Twit of the Millenium
a letter that I sent to CNET and Rep. Howard Berman. It concerns his misguided
attempt to pass the infamous "P2P Hacking" legislation, allowing
corporations that feel they have had their copyrights infringed to hack
the infriger's systems. C-Net posted my response, but edited it for content.
The full text is below
"Just deserts for scofflaws"
watered down version of my article
Dear Mr. Berman,
Thank you for your enlightened approach to the problem of P2P piracy;
a government sponsored hack in to P2P networks. It is always scary when
technological illiterates create technological solutions. By creating
the "anti-DMCA" you have shown that congress truly has lack
of understanding of the side effects of their legislation. Please excuse
me for my idealistic attempt to point out the true magnitude of the mistake
you are about to make.
P2P can be used for legal and illegal purposes. So can the telephone,
a newspaper or a church's bulletin board. People are responsible for their
own actions and there are laws designed to prosecute people for these
The legal uses of P2P are rarely heard on because they are not "sexy"
or political. P2P allows artists and listeners to connect directly. The
proliferation of unique works created and distributed on the Internet
is staggering. They would have never existed if it wasn't for the unique
distribution system that is P2P. It is distinctly possible that the P2P
could evolve in such a way that the large recording corporations may be
out of the music business altogether. The artists could connect with their
fans directly and reap the full benefit of their efforts. The corporations
are very scared of this scenario so they lobby individuals like you to
do their bidding.
What happens when the technological procedures used by the copyright
holders have destructive side effects? Perhaps one possibility would be
to clog up the network to prevent ANY traffic from getting through. Of
course, boring stuff like banking transactions and online securities trades
would be affected. But that's ok because Timmy was prevented from downloading
the newest Hoobastank release.
Significant interference with key portions of the Internet can have expensive
consequences. As proof, take a good look at the economic losses attributed
to the last major Internet virus. Sure we have "remedies" in
your bill, but it’s a bunch of users vs. the giant corporations.
Once the corporations do a real number and create a couple billion dollars
worth of havoc on legitimate computers, what have you accomplished? You
have not affected piracy appreciably and many innocent people have been
affected. The Constitution reads "We the People", not "Us
While we are on the subject on the Constitution, lets talk about that
pesky little document. Where exactly is due process in all this? Will
Sony have a court order? Will a judge supervise the destructive tactics?
How will they know I am in violation without looking at my hard disk?
Am I to understand the ability of P2P to operate will be on the whim of
the recording industry? We have already seen the chilling effect they
have had over free speech in the academic community with their preemptive
lawsuit again Professor Felton at Princeton.
Perhaps some new artist has legally sampled a song under protections
of "fair use" creating a new work. This is commonly done the
in the music industry. Now lets say some corporate flunky lawyer decides
he doesn't think its fair use. So now instead of using the judicial system,
we have a return the Old West in Cyberspace. You think someone's squattin'
on your Copyright? Courts take too long, just take 'em out vigilante style.
Piracy is a very simple problem to resolve. Simply make it more attractive
for the person to purchase the item in question. Software, music and used
cars are the only consumer goods on the planet sold AS IS. The average
record store has several thousand titles in stock. In most cases there
are about 50 or so that you can actually listen to before you buy them.
Don't like the product? Tough. Maybe the artist won't suck so much on
the next release.
Additionally, most titles are not available in MP3 format. The public
is hot over this new format because you can carry a lot of high quality
music in a small package. Are they available through traditional channels?
No. Why not? Because the music giants don’t want to sell on file
for $3 when the can force you buy the CD for $15.
Of course, you need to spend a little time educating the public. People
are not evil, just sometimes misguided. If treated respectfully, most
will come around. However, some will not and that’s what the existing
laws are for. The result of this approach would be AT LEAST the same percentage
increase in sales that your bill would produce, without the headaches.
If my discussion up to this point has not reached you, let me put it
in a way you can relate to. I believe that you and your constituents are
creating a bill that is unconstitutional and thus illegal. Since you are
using the telephone system for your illegal activities, I would like to
sponsor my own bill, allowing individuals to interrupt your land based
and cellular communications whenever they feel you are doing something
If it passes, I would respectfully suggest that you learn to use smoke