ACM Washington Update, Vol. 9.3 (March 31, 2005)

CONTENTS

[1] U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments in MGM v. Grokster
[2] USACM Calls for Stronger Cybersecurity in Power Plants
[3] Experts Begin Voter-Registration Database Study
[4] Momentum Turns Toward Privacy Protection
[5] Legislation on the Move
[6] Innovation Finds Another Champion
[7] Events to Watch In April
[8] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available here.]
Continue reading “ACM Washington Update, Vol. 9.3 (March 31, 2005)”

NYT editorial: When David Steals Goliath’s Music

“The battle over online music piracy is usually presented as David versus Goliath: the poor student in his dorm hunted down by a music conglomerate. It is easy, in that matchup, to side with the student. But when the Supreme Court takes up the issue this week, we hope it considers another party to the dispute: individual creators of music, movies and books, who need to keep getting paid if they are going to keep creating. If their work is suddenly made “free,” all of society is likely to suffer.

[…] The technology community has rallied to Grokster’s defense. Its most radical members argue that “information wants to be free” online and disparage the whole idea of intellectual property. A more modest argument, and one Grokster relies on in court, is that if it loses, there will be a chilling effect on technological innovation […]”

SOURCE: NY Times

Note: USACM recently signed onto an amicus brief with sixty law professors in support of Grokster in the MGM v. Grokster case that will be argued before the Supreme Court tomorrow.

NYT editorial: When David Steals Goliath's Music

“The battle over online music piracy is usually presented as David versus Goliath: the poor student in his dorm hunted down by a music conglomerate. It is easy, in that matchup, to side with the student. But when the Supreme Court takes up the issue this week, we hope it considers another party to the dispute: individual creators of music, movies and books, who need to keep getting paid if they are going to keep creating. If their work is suddenly made “free,” all of society is likely to suffer.

[…] The technology community has rallied to Grokster’s defense. Its most radical members argue that “information wants to be free” online and disparage the whole idea of intellectual property. A more modest argument, and one Grokster relies on in court, is that if it loses, there will be a chilling effect on technological innovation […]”

SOURCE: NY Times

Note: USACM recently signed onto an amicus brief with sixty law professors in support of Grokster in the MGM v. Grokster case that will be argued before the Supreme Court tomorrow.

Grokster and StreamCast face the music

“The entertainment industry is taking its battle against illegal downloading to America’s Supreme Court. But attacking the technology behind file-sharing could stifle innovation without tackling the industry’s long-term problems […]

THE music business should have stuck by Thomas Edison’s technology if it wanted to avoid the threat of piracy. His wax cylinders could record a performance but could not be reproduced; that became possible only with the invention of the flat-disc record some years later. On Tuesday March 29th, America’s Supreme Court will begin to hear testimony in a case brought by the big entertainment companies that is intended to stop the illegal downloading of copyright-protected music and film. The industry’s target is the peer-to-peer (P2P) technology that allows the swapping of files directly over the internet. The defendants in the case are two firms that make file-sharing software: StreamCast Networks and Grokster […]”

SOURCE: The Economist

Is Intellectual Property Really The Same As Real Property?

Originally Posted: (3/17/05) — Understanding the fundamentals underlying a debate often provides useful insight into policymakers’ thinking about an issue. Over the past two days, two different events highlighted a fundamental part of the MGM vs. Grokster debate. On Tuesday, the conservative Heritage Foundation held an event titled “Government’s Role In Protecting Constitutional Rights in Intellectual Property (IP)”. The keynote speakers, former Attorney General Edwin Messe and former Solicitor General Theodore Olsen, drove home their view that there is no difference between real property (land, buildings, etc.) and IP. On Wednesday, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) held the rebuttal event titled “IP & Creativity”. Gary Shaprio, the President of CEA, kicked off the event by persuasively describing all the reasons why IP is different than real property.

While this post doesn’t really answer the underlying question (USACM has already chosen a side in this debate), my point is to shine some light into how policymakers think about this issue. Influencing deeply held philosophical beliefs is difficult, but making the cases made in our amicus brief, on MGM vs. Grokster and the one filed by the “Computer Science Professors” is critical for informing Members of Congress there is more going on here than just protecting property against squatters. Continue reading “Is Intellectual Property Really The Same As Real Property?”

Wash Post editorial: Up for the Count

“MARYLAND VOTERS will never know for sure whether their election choices last year were recorded correctly — and the same uncertainty could haunt them next year if lawmakers again fail to address a serious defect in the touch-screen voting machines used throughout the state. When functioning properly — and the state elections administrator, Linda H. Lamone, insists that nearly all the machines did work last time — they are said to be as accurate as they are efficient. But without a paper trail showing each vote cast, who’s to know? [emphasis added] And what about the machines that did freeze or had mechanical problems? Voters should not have to take it on faith; yet as it stands, there is no way to conduct a solid recount or audit […]”

SOURCE: Washington Post

Note: ACM issued a statement in 2004 calling for, among other things, improved reliability, security, and verifiability of public elections.

USACM Calls For Stronger Cybersecurity In Power Plants

In a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), USACM advocates for stronger cybersecurity in power plants across the nation. The letter points out the critical role of computer-controlled safety systems in today’s power plants and the importance of securing these systems:

“Cybersecurity experts often cite the importance of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems and other computer-mediated and controlled systems. Exploitation of vulnerabilities in these systems could have catastrophic effects. Threats to such systems come not only from individuals bent on terrorism or other mischief, but also from subtler sources such as lack of secure design, programming and implementation errors, and human factor issues.”

“In seeking to update the almost decade-old guidance you recognize that protecting computer systems is a crucial component of securing our nation’s critical infrastructure. Taking proactive, standards-based steps toward securing computer systems is a necessary and worthwhile process – one long advocated by cybersecurity experts and USACM.”

Continue reading “USACM Calls For Stronger Cybersecurity In Power Plants”

Congress Organizes (Finally), Penalties On Phishing And Pharming Sought

The Ides of March have come and gone, and apparently considering themselves safe, Senators have finally (and formally) organized the Senate Judiciary Committee. As we previously reported, Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) will chair a newly created Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee, which gives IP issues their own forum in an otherwise busy committee. Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn has perhaps the most apt quote, “If you thought Hatch was going to ride off into the sunset and not participate in this issue, you’re not in touch with reality.”

The Washington Post has a full story on yesterday’s organization hearing, which includes some not very surprising comments from Chairman Hatch about dealing with P2P issues. He also said the patent reform will be a priority, which isn’t really a surprise, but will probably prove difficult given the history of the issue.

One interesting quote from The Washington Post story was from Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) spokesperson:

“In addition to piracy and copyright infringement, Leahy hopes to work through the committee to address the new threats of “phishing” and “pharming” — forms of electronic fraud in which perpetrators impersonate trusted banks, retailers and financial institutions to steal Internet users’ personal data, spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.”

While phishing is pretty well known on the Hill, pharming is not. It is a bit surprising to see this come up during an organization meeting, although Senator Leahy just introduced the Anti-phishing Act of 2005 (S. 472). The bill establishes stronger criminal penalities for people caught phishing and is written broadly enough to probably catch pharming. Of course you have to actually catch these people and a recent Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) points out the obvious problem with the legislation:

“The biggest challenge for the proposed legislation is that many of the offenders reside overseas, and they use byzantine crime networks to keep their own identities concealed. What’s more, the average phishing site exists for less than six days, estimates the Antiphishing Working Group, an industry trade organization that supports Sen. Leahy’s bill. “It is difficult, if not impossible,” to find the offenders and prosecute them, said Gary Steele, chief executive of Proofpoint Inc., an e-mail security provider. He said the main strength of Sen. Leahy’s bill would be to make the public more aware of phishing threats.”

USACM member Ed Fleten recently posted his take on pharming and pointed out some technology-based solutions to the problem.

High-Performance Computing Legislation Takes First Step Toward Enactment

Peter Harsha at the Computing Research Association reports, The House Science Committee marked up the High-Performance Computing Act on Thursday. The bill is almost the same as last year, when it passed the House but died in the Senate. USACM formally commented on the merits of the legislation to Science Committee Chairman Boehlert.

The sponsors are more optimistic that they will be able to get the bill to President Bush’s desk this Congress. Considering they have two years to do so, it is a relatively safe bet.

Apparently the only sticking point at yesterday’s markup was the rejection of an amendment offered by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) to investigate the “cultural and social implications” of artificial intelligence.