Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Open Source, the DMCA, and Encryption This big news of the day is how the FBI arrested Dmitry Sklyarov for giving a presentation on how the encryption protocols on e-books can be overcome. He was not arrested for overcoming the encryption available on e-books, but for showing how it could be done. This raises several interesting points:

- By criminalizing tools to crack code, the DMCA has essentially convicted gun owners of being murderers, and car drivers of being hit-and-run offenders. If China had this law, Amnesty International would be up in arms. Americans should be ashamed.
- Open sourcing software opens it up to scrutiny that will make it more secure than closed software. In fact, open sourcing software is the only way to make it truly secure. Good encryption cannot come from obscurity, it is a process built into the code.
- The battles over digital copyright are entirely over protecting business models, not protecting the public domain.

The thinking technical community is, of course, aghast at this news, but I wonder if the broader public is thinking any farther than "glad they caught the evil hacker." When it comes to authorized sharing and the DMCA, I don't think that the general public has an inkling of just how high the stakes have become.

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