Computer underground Digest Mon June 29, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 28 Editors: Jim Thomas and
Computer underground Digest Mon June 29, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 28
Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET)
Associate Editor: Etaion Shrdlu, Jr.
Newest Authormeister: B. Kehoe
Ex-Arcmeister: Bob Kusumoto
Downundermeister: Dan Carosone
CONTENTS, #4.28 (June 29, 1992)
File 1--Proposal: A Market Mechanism for Information Age Goods
File 2--EFF on GEnie's RoundTable
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Date: Sat, 20 Jun 92 12:39:51 0
From: email@example.com (Brad Cox, Ph.D.)
Subject: File 1--Proposal: A Market Mechanism for Information Age Goods
The enclosed article, which was written as a column for an
object-oriented programming magazine, proposes an initiative that has
great potential for both good and for harm. I believe that
superdistribution, as discussed in this paper, should be relevant to
EFF's interests, even though it looks at privacy from a viewpoint
contrary to the one that EFF generally endorses.
"WHAT IF THERE *IS* A SILVER BULLET...AND THE COMPETITION GETS IT FIRST?"
(Invited Column; Journal of Object-oriented Programming; June 1992)
Few programmers could develop a compiler, word processor or spreadsheet
to compete in today's crowded software market The cost and complexity
of modern-day applications far exceed the financial and intellectual
capacity of even the rarest of individuals. Even large-granularity
sub-components like window systems, persistent object databases and
communication facilities can be larger than most individuals could
handle. But nearly any of us could provide smaller (so-called
'reusable') software components that others could assemble into larger
objects; components as small as Stacks and Queues.
So why don't we? Why do we drudge away our lives in companies with the
financial, technical, and marketing muscle to build the huge objects we
call applications? Why don't we start software companies, like Intel,
to invent, build, test, document, and market small-granularity objects
for other companies to buy? Think of the reduction in auto emission
pollution if more of us stayed home to build small-granularity
components for sale! Think of not having to get along with the boss!
Object-oriented programming technologies have brought us tantalizingly
close to making this dream technically, if not economically, feasible.
Subroutines have long been able to encapsulate functionality into
modules that others can use without needing to look inside, just as
with Intel's silicon components. Object-oriented programming languages
have extended our ability to encapsulate functionality within
Software-ICs<1> that can support higher-level objects than subroutines
ever could<2>. Such languages have already made the use of
pre-fabricated data structure and graphical user interface classes a
viable alternative to fabricating cut-to-fit components for each
application. All this is technically feasible already, even though the
software industrial revolution has hardly begun<3>.
Yet these technical advances have not really changed the way we
organize to build software. They've just providing better tools for
building software just as we've done in the past. The pre-fabricated
small components of today are not bought and sold as assets in their
own right, but are bundled (given away) inside something much larger
than any individual could build. Sometimes they are bundled to inflate
the value (and price!) of some cheap commodity item, as in Apple's ROM
software that turns a $50 CPU chip into a $5000 Macintosh computer.
Sometimes they play the same role with respect to software objects, as
in the libraries that come with object-oriented compilers.
There is no way of marketing the small active objects that we call
reusable software components, at least not today. The same is true of
the passive objects we call data. For example, nearly 50% of the bulk
waste in our landfills is newspapers and magazines. Nearly half of our
bulk waste problem could be eliminated if we could break the habit of
fondling the macerated remains of some forest critter's home as we
drink our morning coffee. But this is far more than a bad habit from
the viewpoint of newspaper publishers. If they distributed news
electronically, how would they charge for their labor?
Paper-based information distribution makes certain kinds of information
unavailable even when the information is easily obtainable. For
example, I hate price-comparison shopping and would gladly pay for
high-quality information as to where to buy groceries and gasoline
cheaply within driving distance of my home. This information is avidly
collected by various silver-haired ladies in my community, but solely
for their own use. There is no incentive for them to electronically
distribute their expertise to customers like myself.
What if entrepreneurs could market electronic information objects for
other people to buy? Couldn't geographically specialized but broadly
relevant objects like my gasoline price example be the 'killer apps'
that the hardware vendors are so desperately seeking? Think of what it
could it mean to today's saturated market if everyone who buys gasoline
and groceries bought a computer simply to benefit from Aunt Nellie's
Information Age Economics
These questions outline the fundamental obstacle of the manufacturing
age to information age transition. The human race is adept at selling
tangible goods such as Twinkies, automobiles, and newspapers. But we've
never developed a commercially robust way of buying and selling easily
copied intangible goods like electronic data and software.
Of course, there are more obstacles to building a robust market in
electronic objects than I could ever mention here. Many of them are
technological deficiencies that could easily be corrected, such as the
lack of suitably diverse encapsulation and binding mechanisms in
today's object-oriented programming languages, insufficient
telecommunications bandwidth and reliability, and the dearth of capable
browsers, repositories and software classification schemes. My second
book, Object Technologies; A Revolutionary Approach, considers
these technical obstacles in detail to show how each one could be
overcome if suitable economic incentives were in place.
The biggest obstacle is that electronic objects can be copied so easily
that there is no way to collect revenue the way Intel does, by
collecting a fee each time another copy of a silicon object is needed.
More than any other reason, this is why nobody would ever quit their
day job to build small-granularity software components for a living.
A striking vestige of manufacturing age thinking is the still-dominant
practice of charging for information age goods like software by the
copy. Since electronic goods can be copied easily by every consumer,
the producers must inhibit copying with such abominations as shrinkwrap
license agreements and copy protection dongles. Since these are not
reliable and are increasingly rejected by software consumers, SPA
(Software Publishers Association) and BSA (Business Software Alliance)
have even started using handcuffs and jail sentences as copy protection
technologies that actually do work even for information age products
The lack of robust information age incentives explains why so many
corporate reuse library initiatives have collapsed under a hail of user
complaints. "Poorly documented. Poorly tested. Too hard to find what I
need. Does not address my specific requirements." Except for the often
rumored "Not invented here" syndrome, the problem is only occasionally
a demand side problem. The big problems are on the supply side. There
are no robust incentives to encourage producers to provide minutely
specialized, tested, documented and (dare I hope?) guaranteed
components that quality-conscious engineers might pay good money to
buy. As long as these "repositories" are waste disposal dumps where we
throw poorly tested and undocumented trash for garbage pickers to
"reuse", quality-conscious engineers will rightly insist, "Not in my
Paying for software by the copy (or "reusing" it for free) is so
widespread today that it may seem like the only option. But think of it
in object-oriented terms. Where is it written that we should pay for an
object's instance variables (data) according to usage (in the form of
network access charges) yet pay for methods (software) by the copy?
Shouldn't we also consider incentive structures that could motivate
people to buy and sell electronic objects in which the historical
distinction between program and data are altogether hidden from view?
Lets consider a different approach that might work for any form of
computer-based information. It is based on the following observation.
Software objects differ from tangible objects in being fundamentally
unable to monitor their copying but trivially able to monitor their
use. For example, it is easy to make software count how many times it
has been invoked, but hard to make it count how many times it has been
So why not build an information age market economy around this
difference between manufacturing age and information age goods? If
revenue collection were based on monitoring the use of software inside
a computer, vendors could dispense with copy protection altogether.
They could distribute electronic objects for free in expectation of a
usage-based revenue stream.
Legal precedents for this approach already exist. The distinction
between copyright (the right to copy or distribute) and useright (the
right to 'perform', or to use a copy once obtained) are both provided
by existing copyright laws. They were stringently tested in court a
century ago as the music publishers were sorting out the implications
of the emerging music broadcasting industry.
When we buy a record, we acquire ownership of a physical copy
(copyright), but only a limited useright; just the right to use the
music for personal enjoyment. Conversely, large television and radio
companies get the very same records for free, but pay substantial fees
for the useright to play the music on the air. The fees are
administered by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and
Publishers) and BMI (Broadcasting Musicians Institute) by monitoring
how often each record is broadcast to how large a listening audience.
A Japanese industry-wide consortium, JEIDA (Japanese Electronics
Industrial Development Association) is developing an analogous approach
that analogizes each computer to a station that broadcasts to an
audience of one<4>. Called superdistribution, its premise is that copy
protection is exactly the wrong idea for software. Instead,
superdistribution allows software to be freely distributed and freely
acquired via whatever distribution mechanism you please. You are
specifically encouraged to download superdistribution software from
networks, give copies to your friends, or send it as junk mail to
people you've never met. Spray my software from airplanes if you want.
This generosity is possible because this software is 'meterware'. It
has strings attached that effectively make revenue collection
completely independent of software distribution. The software contains
embedded instructions that make it useless except on machines that are
equipped for this new kind of revenue collection.
The computers that can run superdistribution software are otherwise
quite ordinary. In particular, they will run ordinary pay-by-copy
software just fine. They just have additional capabilities that only
superdistribution software uses. In JEIDA's current prototype, these
services are provided by a silicon chip that plugs into a Macintosh
Electronic objects (not just applications, but active and/or passive
objects of every granularity) that are intended for superdistribution
invoke this hardware to ensure that the revenue collection hardware is
present, that prior usage reports have been uploaded, and that prior
usage fees have been paid.
The hardware is not complicated (the main complexities are
tamper-proofing, not base functionality). It merely provides several
instructions that must be present before superdistribution software can
run. The instructions count how many times they have been invoked by
the software, storing these usage counts temporarily in a tamper-proof
persistent RAM. Periodically (say monthly) this usage information is
uploaded to an administrative organization for billing, using public
key encryption technology to discourage tampering and to protect the
secrecy of this information.
The end-user gets a monthly bill for their usage of each top-level
component. Their payments are credited to each component's owner in
proportion to the component's usage. These accounts are then debited
according to each application's usage of any sub-components. These are
credited to the sub-component owners, again in proportion to usage. In
other words, the end-user's payments are recursively distributed
through the producer-consumer hierarchy. The distribution is governed
by usage metering information collected from each end-user's machine,
plus usage pricing data that is provided to the administrative
organization by each component vendor.
Since communication is infrequent and involves only a small amount of
metering information, the communication channel could be as simple as a
modem that autodials a hardwired 800 number each month. Many other
solutions are viable, such as flash cards or even floppy disks to be
mailed back and forth each month in the mails.
A Revolutionary Approach
Whereas software's ease of replication is a liability today,
superdistribution makes it an asset. Whereas software vendors must
spend heavily to overcome software's invisibility, superdistribution
thrusts software out into the world to serve as its own advertisement.
Whereas the personal computer revolution isolates individuals inside a
standalone personal computer, superdistribution establishes a
cooperative/competitive community around an information age market
Of course, there are many obstacles to this ever happening for real. A
big one is the information privacy issues raised by usage monitors in
every computer from video games to workstations to mainframes. Although
we are accustomed to usage monitoring for electricity, telephone, gas,
water and electronic data services, information privacy is an explosive
political issue. Superdistribution could easily be legislated into
oblivion out of the fear that the usage information would be used for
other than billing purposes.
A second obstacle is the problem of adding usage monitoring hardware to
a critical number of computers. This is where today's computing
establishment could be gravely exposed to those less inclined to
maintain the status quo.
It is significant that superdistribution was not developed by the
American computer establishment, who presently controls 70% of the
world software market. It was developed by JEIDA, an industry-wide
consortium of Japanese computer manufacturers. The Japanese are clearly
capable of building world-class computers. Suppose that they were to
simply build superdistribution capabilities into every one of them, not
as an extra-price option but as a ubiquitous capability of every
computer they build?
Review the benefits I've discussed in this column and then ask: Whose
computers would you buy? Whose computers would Aunt Nellie and her
friends buy? What if superdistribution really is a Silver Bullet for
the information age issues I've raised in this column? And what if the
competition builds it first?
<1> ) Software-IC is a registered trademark of The Stepstone
<2> Brad J. Cox; Object-oriented Programming; An Evolutionary Approach;
Addison Wesley; 1986.
<3> Brad J. Cox; Object Technologies; A Revolutionary Approach; Addison
Wesley; late 1992. Also see Planning the Software Industrial
Revolution; IEEE Software; November 1990, and There is a Silver Bullet;
Byte magazine; October 1990.
<4> Ryoichi Mori and Masaji Kawahara; Superdistribution: An Overview
and the Current Status; ISEC 89-44; and Superdistribution: The Concept
and the Architecture; The Transactions of the IEICE Vol. E 73 No 7 July
1990. Also seeWhat lies ahead; Byte 1989 January; pp 346-348 and On
Superdistribution; Byte 1990; September; p 346.
* * * * *
Brad Cox, Ph.D. (203) 868-9182 voice / -0780 fax
Information Age Consulting Best: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 21 Jun 92 19:49:14 EDT
From: Gordon Meyer <72307.1502@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: File 2--EFF on GEnie's RoundTable
| The Public Forum * NonProfit Connection RoundTable |______
| Sysops' GE Mail: PF$ RTC Sunday 9pm EDT: MOVE 545;2 |______
| News, Current Events, Government, Societal Issues, Nonprofits |
| Rights & responsibilities, government, politics, minority civil |_
| rights, volunteerism, nonprofit management, the media, the | |
| environment, international issues, gay/lesbian/bisexual issues, | |
| women & men, parenting, youth organizations and more! | |
________ PF$ PF*NPC Sysops _____________
| |_ | Weekly RTC: |_
| The | | SHERMAN Tom Sherman | 9pm Eastern | |
| PF*NPC | | SCOTT Scott Reed | on Sundays! | |
| Staff: | | CHERNOFF Paul Chernoff | Type M545;2 | |
|________| | GRAFFITI Ric Helton |_____________| |
|________| SHERRY Sherry |_____________|
Real-time Conference: Free Speech Online
(May 31, 1992)
(C) 1992 by GEnie (R) and Public Forum*NonProfit Connection
This file may be distributed only in its entirety
and with this notice intact.
Who gets to control the content of electronic communication
and the telephone system through which it travels?
Is the First Amendment well-served by current public policy
On May 31, at 9 pm ET, Jerry Berman, formerly chief legislative counsel for
the ACLU, joined us in RealTime Conference to talk about electronic free
speech. Founder of the ACLU Privacy and Technology Project, Jerry currently
directs the Washington, DC, office of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Don't miss lively discussion of Science, Technology and Society in bulletin
board category 7, and check out the files on technology and society in our
library. See Cat 7/Topic 1 for details.
An electronic meeting place for friends, family and national "town
meetings," GEnie is an international online computer network for
information, education and entertainment. For under $5.00/month, GEnie
offers over 50 special interest bulletin boards and unlimited electronic
mail at no extra charge during evenings, weekends and holidays. GEnie is
offered by GE Information Services, a division of General Electric Company.
In the Public Forum*NonProfit Connection, thousands of people every day
discuss politics and a wide range of social and nonprofit issues. A neutral
arena for all points of view, the PF*NPC is presented by Public Interest
Media, a nonprofit organization devoted to empowering people through the
socially productive use of information and communication technology.
For more information about GEnie or the Public Forum, call 1-800-638-9636
or send electronic mail to email@example.com.
To sign up for GEnie service, call (with modem in HALF DUPLEX) 800-638-8369.
Upon connection, type HHH. At the U#= prompt, type XTX88367,GENIE .
The system will prompt you for information.
-=(( The Public Forum * NonProfit Connection RoundTable ))=-
-==((( GEnie Page 545 - Keywords PF or NPC )))==-
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> Welcome to the last in this month's series of
realtime conferences on Technology and Society!
These RTCs raise important issues for the future.
You'll find these issues discussed in our bulletin
board, especially in Category 7, and in many
excellent files in the Public Forum library.
Before we get started, a word about the process: So
that everyone gets a turn at the beginning, only our
guests and people asking questions will be able to
talk. When you have a question, type /RAI to raise
your hand. I'll call on you in order. Please type
your question, but DON'T hit to send it.
When you're called on, THEN hit to send
your question quickly. It's good to use three
periods if you have more to say and to put GA for
"go ahead" at the end of a final phrase.
And now it's our pleasure to introduce tonight's
special guests: Jerry Berman was chief legislative
counsel for the ACLU and founded its Privacy and
Technology Project. He now directs the Washington
D.C. office of the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
and is joined here tonight by his EFF colleague
Sheri Steele. They're here to talk with you about
general issues of free speech online. For example:
Who gets to control the content of electronic
communication and the telephone system through which
it travels? Is the First Amendment well-served by
current public policy and legislation?
I also want to announce that EFF and Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility are both
getting GEnie accounts so that they can participate
in discussions like this in the BB and provide
information in our file library
Welcome, Jerry and Shari! Would you like to make any
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Good to be here! Shari and I are at EFF Washington
Office on Capitol Hill in D.C. so we're inside the
beltway, trying to protect civil liberties for
cyberspace. Does anyone have any questions?
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> Please type /RAI if you have a question and I'll
call on you. Jerry, maybe you'd like to add a few
words about the EFF server?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> EFF is a new advocacy organization that is trying to
achieve the democratic potential of new technology.
We opened our Washington Office in January of this
year (EFF started a year before)... We are working
on a range of civil liberties issues. For example,
opposing the FBI's efforts to control digital
telephone technology to make wiretapping easier. We
are trying to get Congress, the FCC and the states
to make this telephone network digital to make all
of this democracy we are engaged in easier and less
<[Randy] R.DYKHUIS> Does the EFF work with e-mail systems inside
companies or does it focus exclusively on "public"
networks like GEnie?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> We consider GENIE a "private" network even though it
is open to the "public." On the other hand, the
telephone network is a public regulated network. Do
you get the distinction?
<[Randy] R.DYKHUIS> Yes, I understand.
<[gene] G.STOVER> In our current Information Revolution, like in the
Industrial Revolution, rights and other legal issues
are being juggled and rearranged. A lot of freedoms
and privileges are at stake. Are you optimistic
about the outcome? Will future generations thank us
for the world we are creating?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> A big issue in the electronic age is insuring
that the public network carries all speech and does
not censor. Like telephone calls. It is not clear
that this is the current regime... I am optimistic
if we can join together to make sure rights are
guaranteed and extended in cyberspace or the
<[Ric] GRAFFITI> Thanks for coming tonight! We archive all of the
EFFector online issues here in the public forum
library, and I have read a lot about Operation Sun
Devil. Where does that stand, now? What is the EFF
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> We have brought a civil suit against the government
and the case is in currently in the discovery phase
in Texas. It'll take time, but we hope to establish
new privacy rights for bulletin board users.
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> Jerry, you might say a few words to describe Sun
Devil for those who don't know about it.
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Lots of people know that the Secret service and FBI
conducted a sweeping and overbroad search looking
for suspected computer hackers. We need to focus,
even tonight, on other pressing issues that confront
us. For example, Are we going to continue to let the
government control encryption so that we can never
have real privacy either against law enforcement
agencies or against others who want to violate ojur
<[Ric] GRAFFITI> One of the most disturbing aspects of Sun Devil was
the confiscation of private property - computers and
related equipment and supplies - without charges
being brought OR the return of the stuff. They can
easily silence us, apparently, by taking away our
modems and terminals. What can be done?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> We have to establish new investigative law
enforcement warrant requirements for computer crime
investigations where First amendment rights may be
involved. There are precedents... The FBI must use
special procedures to conduct undercover operations
when it may be targeted against a newspaper or
university or political group to protect against
interfering with free speech... Congress almost
passed legislation after Watergate to limit in
statute how the FBI investigates political groups.
Guidelines do exist, even though the bill did not
pass... We have to do the same for BBS type
<[Branch] H.HAINES3> What would probably be your biggest concern
regarding current electronic freedom, or the biggest
threat you are aware of?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> We need to insure that this telephone network that
GEnie is on MUST carry all speech, and not be able
to discriminate on the basis of content. Telephone
companies are not carrying certain political "900"
number accounts because they think they don't have
to carry all services just like telephone calls.
This could come to serve as a precedent for not
carrying a controversial BBS service. These rules
need to be worked out in law now before the Jesse
Helms' of the world get into this technology when
it is easier and see what's going on...
<[Branch] H.HAINES3> I hear a lot of reports that *P* (Tom PF knows this
term I'm sure) is very restrictive about what can be
said by its users. Would that be part of the problem
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Good question. Prodigy is a private service. It is
not big enough to be regulated like a public
institution. So they can discriminate and make
editorial decisions not to carry speech. We think
this is a misguided policy and have told Prodigy so
publically and privately. However, we want Prodigy
to have rights. We think the best answer is to make
the telephone network better so there can be many
Prodigy's and similar services and make it easier
for everyone to use a GEnie or some other provider
that has a more open policy. We need to make the
telephone network digital now. We can do this well
before we get to fiber optics and other 21st century
technologies. But it will require political action.
It is EFF's highest priority now.
<[gene] G.STOVER> Are BBS operators currently held responsible for the
information on their BBSes? Should they be held
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> It depends. There is very little case law. But if a
BBS has a forum like this one open to all, it should
not be liable if, for example, I libel one of you or
commit a crime on line... But today, we are not sure
what responsibilities BBSs have. Some case law
suggests that it is limited and that a BBS is like a
newsstand, and newsstand operators don't have to
know everything in every mag or book on the stand.
<[gene] G.STOVER> So if someone posts something illegal on a BBS and
is prosecuted, is the sysop prosecuted, too?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> It could be charged. The operator would argue that
it is not reasonable under the circumstances to say
it knew of or should have known the crime was being
committed. This will be a factual issue. The legal
issue is to get the Courts or the Congress to give
BBS operators a lot of freedom to err or not to
censor. Like a newspaper is not liable to public
figures for defamation unless it acts recklessly in
disregard of the truth.
<[Charlie] VASSILOPOULO> How large is the movement in Washington to legislate
morality in general and specifically in electronic
media, and who spearheads that movement?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Today, all sides--but especially the right--want to
legislate one kind of morality or another. Our job
is to make sure it is not inconsistent with the
constitution when electronic technology is involved.
We have had Congress several years ago try to outlaw
certain gay BBS systems because of possible child
pornography. Such bills will come up again when this
technology is more widely used. You can be sure that
the morality gang in Congress will try to regulate
adult, political BBSs when they are really in a
majority of American homes. And as you know, this is
not far off. We need to establish the rules now
before we have Congress looking at very
controversial siutuations with no rules in mind, or
<[Darla] KUBY> Won't there be sort of a 'conflict of interest' with
you having a free account on GEnie? I mean, would
Compuserve give you a free account? Or Prodigy?
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> Let me step in here. EFF is not getting a free
account; they're paying just like everyone else
except that we're giving them free access to the
Public Forum because they are helping with the
discussion and library files.
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Darla, we are paying.
<[Darla] KUBY> Would you accept the same from Compuserve or
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Of course, we would love to pay them also. We are
on Compuserve and we have a Prodigy account. What,
by the way, is the conflict if we had a free
account--which we don't?
<[Connie] C.RIFENBURG> A question recently came up on one of the boards
concerning reposting of a deleted post. The original
poster had deleted a post. It was captured by
another person in a buffer and reposted to the BBS.
People said it was against copyright laws...? Who
"owns" the BB post once posted?
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> Connie, I'm afraid you're asking a question that has
partly to do with GEnie rules. But Jerry can
certainly answer the general question
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Again, it depends. I dont think it is covered by
copyright law unless the posting was from, say, a
book or magazine and wasmnore than fair use.
<[Connie] C.RIFENBURG> Then copyright is only book or magazine?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> No. But when I send this message I do not expect to
be covered by copyright even though I may say
something very original. I could I guess put a THIS
IS COPYRIGHTED here. But it would be difficult to
enforce... Copyright does apply to more than books or
magazines, however, like film, etc.
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> Jerry, I think your comment conflicts with those of
another RTC guest, Gerry Elman, Esq. But that's why
we have courts, I guess :)
<[Ric] GRAFFITI> It may be too fine a distinction, but all online
systems are actually store & forward messaging
systems (voice mail & pager systems, too), instead
of direct communications channels like the phone
lines. That seems to make the BBS or online service
a publisher, by re-broadcasting (or narrowcasting,
to one person) the messages as if it had originated
the message, even though system operators had
nothing to do with the content. That seems to be
where confusion over liability for defamation and
criminal conduct occurs. Any comment?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Yes. Analogies break down but the store and forward
does not always mean the ability to edit or know of
the contents in such a way as to be liable. For
example, under current law, a service that offers
E-mail to its users violates the law if it reads a
stored message (email) before it is forwarded or
while it is stored. In fact the FBI has to get a
warrant from a court to get such a message. This is
one of the issues in Steve Jackson case. Did they
have a warrant for all the emial in Jackson's
<[Ric] GRAFFITI> They got it, didn't they? :) Seriously, then, online
and BBS systems are not liable for the contents of
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> That is correct. Thus, one could shield a BBS from
liability by encouraging anything controversial be
carried as email between those who wanted to send
and receive the messages.
<[gene] G.STOVER> Do you think the proposed(?) partial deregulation to
allow the telcos to produce TV is a good idea? Could
this produce abuses like those with the old railroad
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Good question. The issue is whether a carrier (like
the telcos) can also publish content and not
discriminate against other information providers.
There is good reason to worry, but did you know that
while the telcos can't do cable TV yet over their
lines, they NOW can do information services and
compete with others?
<[gene] G.STOVER> Where could I find more info on this?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Send Shari Steele E-Mail at Eff.org
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> And you'll see the EFF GEnie address pretty soon!
<[T.C.] WIDMO> What is the danger of public BBS messages being
gathered by gov't, to suppress individual political
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Not much right now. Since the Watergate scandals
and Hoover revelations, government has not been
collecting gobs of info from political groups. They
used to gather everything using informants and
wiretaps, etc.... also attend public meetings.
Today, if a police officer joined this conference,
we would have a hard time arguing that he or she
could not. Does any one disagree?
<[T.C.] WIDMO> Could they pressure co's with gov't contracts to
forward to them anything questionable?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Sure they could. They could ask BBS services to give
them transcripts of public forums like this and it
would break no law. (Perhaps a contract between BBS
and subscriber but NO LAW.)
I just came in on this a short time ago so I may
have missed this, but does an online service such as
GEnie or Prodigy have a right to censor public
messages on the BB's?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> The answer is Yes. For example, if GEnie did not
want a DAVID DUKE conference it could turn Duke
down. Or it could end the conference. GEnie is a
private publisher and its BBS conferences are like
letters to the editor in some respects. GEnie is not
the government. We want GEnie to have the right to
editorialize so that we all have similar rights to
choose how we speek. We need a diversity of BBSs to
cover political diversity. Does anyone disagree?
<[Ric] GRAFFITI> I imagine you run into the misperception about
public vs. private data networks often. However,
moving on...... Could you comment on the FBI's
"demand" to be let in and given free access to the
plaintext of the digital phone network? Why did they
publish editorials and go on TV with this request to
massively re-engineer modern phone & data equipment?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Good question. The FBI is worried that fiber optic
networks, services like Call-Forwarding, etc. will
make it difficult for them to conduct lawful
warrants. This is a real concern, but we do not
believe the solution is to allow them backdoors to
all networks or easy access to encryption keys.
There are narrower solutions. They went on TV and
radio because they are engaged in political
persuasion to get the law changed in their favor. We
are doing the same from the other side. CPSR, EFF,
ACLU and industry are opposing this proposal.
<[Ric] GRAFFITI> Is the day of the phone bug, wire tap and easy
access to private communications coming to a close?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> No. Some of the technology is better for privacy but
software changes can give law enforcement access to
more info than ever.
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> Jerry, what would you suggest that people, who are
concerned about free speech online, do to insure
that corporate or government interests won't impose
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> Citizens on the electronic frontier need to organize
to protect their rights. Keeping informed--like here
on GEnie--is a good step. Joining organizations like
CPSR, EFF, and ACLU (I try to be catholic) also will
help. We are trying to put together at EFF an
advocacy organization that can make our voices heard
on these issues. We are amping up our membership
effort. We now already have 4 full professionals
here in DC working on legal and policy issues
involving technology, free speech, privacy, access to
information, improving the telephone network,
creating a BBS rights and responsibilities book,
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> You said something about these issues being settled
in the courts or in Congress. Which would you
prefer? Is working through EFF, CPSR, ACLU etc the
best way to influence the outcome?
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20> I do not think we can solve large technology issues
in the courts. It took the courts 40 years to figure
out that wiretapping violated privacy. Bad cases,
like national security threats, tend to make bad
law... and this is not a liberal Supreme Court, is
it? We need broader technology policy and that
requires working out new relationships between
converging technologies, like computers, telephones,
cable, mass media... Congress and state legislatures
are the appropriate forums. And we can have an
influence and not let the courts do the elitist
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN> A perfect closing answer! Thanks to Jerry Berman and
Shari Steele for joining us tonight, and thanks to
the EFF for joining GEnie to improve our discussion
of these crucial issues for the future. I also want
to thank all the participants who asked great
questions tonight and to encourage all those reading
this transcript to join us!
-----# Participants #-----
<[JERRY BERMAN] PRESS20>
<[Tom PF*NPC] SHERMAN>
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