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prohibition or abolition

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  • Lucas Gonze
    The comparison that interests me these days is not with prohibition but abolitionism -- the RIAA conflict has all the signs of a classic moral crusade. Check
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 17, 2003
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      The comparison that interests me these days is not with prohibition but
      abolitionism -- the RIAA conflict has all the signs of a classic moral
      crusade. Check out "Hellfire Nation"(*) by James Marone if you get a

      - Lucas

      * http://www.yale.edu/yup/books/094841.htm

      On Wednesday, Dec 17, 2003, at 13:28 America/New_York,
      nec-admin@... wrote:

      > NEC @ Shirky.com, a mailing list about Networks, Economics, and Culture
      > Published periodically / #2.12 / December 17, 2003
      > Subscribe at http://shirky.com/nec.html
      > Archived at http://shirky.com
      > Social Software weblog at http://corante.com/many/
      > In this issue:
      > - Introduction
      > - Essay: The RIAA Succeeds Where the Cypherpunks Failed
      > Also at http://www.shirky.com/writings/riaa_encryption.html
      > - Worth Reading:
      > - GrokLaw: MVP of the SCO Wars
      > - Tom Coates Talks With A Slashdot Troller
      > * Introduction =======================================================
      > The end of another year. Thank you all for reading. See you in January.
      > -clay
      > * Essay ==============================================================
      > The RIAA Succeeds Where the Cypherpunks Failed
      > http://www.shirky.com/writings/riaa_encryption.html
      > For years, the US Government has been terrified of losing surveillance
      > powers over digital communications generally, and one of their biggest
      > fears has been broad public adoption of encryption. If the average
      > user were to routinely encrypt their email, files, and instant
      > messages, whole swaths of public communication currently available to
      > law enforcement with a simple subpoena (at most) would become either
      > unreadable, or readable only at huge expense.
      > The first broad attempt by the Government to deflect general adoption
      > of encryption came 10 years ago, in the form of the Clipper Chip
      > [http://www.epic.org/crypto/clipper/%5d. The Clipper Chip was part of a
      > proposal for a secure digital phone that would only work if the
      > encryption keys were held in such a way that the Government could get
      > to them. With a pair of Clipper phones, users could make phone calls
      > secure from everyone except the Government.
      > Though opposition to Clipper by civil liberties groups was swift and
      > extreme [1] the thing that killed it was work by Matt Blaze, a Bell
      > Labs security researcher, showing that the phone's wiretap
      > capabilities could be easily defeated [2], allowing Clipper users to
      > make calls that even the Government couldn't decrypt. (Ironically, ATT
      > had designed the phones originally, and had a contract to sell them
      > before Blaze sunk the project.)
      > [2]
      > http://cpsr.org/cpsr/privacy/crypto/clipper/
      > clipper_nist_escrow_comments/
      > [3]
      > http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/199406/
      > msg00006.html
      > The Government's failure to get the Clipper implemented came at a
      > heady time for advocates of digital privacy -- the NSA was losing
      > control of cryptographic products, Phil Zimmerman had launched his
      > Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) email program, and the Cypherpunks, a merry
      > band of crypto-loving civil libertarians, were on the cover of
      > [http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.02/crypto.rebels.html%5d the
      > second issue of Wired. The floodgates were opening, leading to...
      > ...pretty much nothing. Even after the death of Clipper and the launch
      > of PGP, the Government discovered that for the most part, users didn't
      > _want_ to encrypt their communications. The single biggest barrier to
      > the spread of encryption has turned out to be not control but apathy.
      > Though business users encrypt sensitive data to hide it from one
      > another, the use of encryption to hide private communications from the
      > Government has been limited mainly to techno-libertarians and a small
      > criminal class.
      > The reason for this is the obvious one: the average user has little to
      > hide, and so hides little. As a result, 10 years on, e-mail is still
      > sent as plain text, files are almost universally unsecured, and so
      > on. The Cypherpunk fantasy of a culture that routinely hides both
      > legal and illegal activities from the state has been defeated by a
      > giant distributed veto. Until now.
      > It may be time to dust off that old issue of Wired, because the RIAA
      > is succeeding where 10 years of hectoring by the Cypherpunks failed.
      > When shutting down Napster turned out to have all the containing
      > effects of stomping on a tube of toothpaste, the RIAA switched to
      > suing users directly. This strategy has worked much better than
      > shutting down Napster did, convincing many users to stop using public
      > file sharing systems, and to delete MP3s from their hard drives.
      > However, to sue users, they had to serve a subpoena, and to do that,
      > they had to get their identities from the user's internet service
      > providers.
      > Identifying those users has had a second effect, and that's to
      > create a real-world version of the scenario that drove the invention
      > of user-controlled encryption in the first place. Whitfield Diffie,
      > inventor of public key encryption
      > [http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/P/public_key_cryptography.html%5d, the
      > strategy that underlies most of today's cryptographic products, saw
      > the problem as a version of "Who will guard the guardians?"
      > In any system where a user's identity is in the hands of a third
      > party, that third party cannot be trusted. No matter who the third
      > party is, there will be at least hypothetical situations where the
      > user does not want his or her identity revealed, but the third party
      > chooses or is forced to disclose it anyway. (The first large scale
      > example of this happening was the compromise of anon.penet.fi, the
      > anonymous email service, in 1995
      > [http://www.mids.org/pay/mn/701/anon.html%5d.) Seeing that this problem
      > was endemic to all systems where third parties had access to a user's
      > identity, Diffie set out to design a system that put control of
      > anonymity directly in the hands of the user.
      > Diffie published theoretical work on public key encryption in 1975,
      > and by the early 90s, practical implementations were being offered to
      > the users. However, the scenario Diffie envisioned had little obvious
      > relevance to users, who were fairly anonymous on the internet already.
      > Instead of worrying now about possible future dangers, most users'
      > privacy concerns centered on issues local to the PC, like hiding
      > downloaded pornography, rather than on encrypting network traffic.
      > However, Diffie's scenario, where legal intervention destroys the
      > users' de facto privacy wherever it is in the hands of commercial
      > entities, is now real. The RIAA's successful extraction of user
      > identity from internet service providers makes it vividly clear that
      > the veil of privacy enjoyed by the average internet user is diaphanous
      > at best, and that the obstacles to piercing that veil are much much
      > lower than for, say, allowing the police to search your home or read
      > your (physical) mail. Diffie's hypothetical problem is today's
      > reality. As a result, after years of apathy, his proposed solution is
      > being adopted as well.
      > In response to the RIAA's suits, users who want to share music files
      > are adopting tools like WINW (WINW Is Not WASTE)
      > [http://www.winw.org/%5d and BadBlue [http://www.badblue.com/%5d, that
      > allow them to create encrypted spaces where they can share files and
      > converse with one another. As a result, all their communications in
      > these spaces, even messages with no more commercial content than
      > "BRITN3Y SUX!!!1!" are hidden from prying eyes. This is not because
      > such messages are sensitive, but rather because once a user starts
      > encrypting messages and files, it's often easier to encrypt everything
      > than to pick and choose. Note that the broadening adoption of
      > encryption is not because users have become libertarians, but because
      > they have become criminals; to a first approximation, every PC owner
      > under the age of 35 is now a felon.
      > The obvious parallel here is with Prohibition. By making it
      > unconstitutional for an adult to have a drink in their own home,
      > Prohibition created a cat and mouse game between law enforcement and
      > millions of citizens engaged in an activity that was illegal but
      > popular. As with file sharing, the essence of the game was hidden
      > transactions -- you needed to be able to get into a speakeasy or buy
      > bootleg without being seen.
      > This requirement in turn created several long-term effects in American
      > society, everything from greatly increased skepticism of Government-
      > mandated morality to broad support for anyone who could arrange for
      > hidden transactions, including organized crime. Reversing the cause
      > did not reverse the effects; both the heightened skepticism and the
      > increased power of organized crime lasted decades after Prohibition
      > itself was reversed.
      > As with Prohibition, so with file sharing -- the direct effects from
      > the current conflict are going to be minor and over quickly, compared
      > to the shifts in society as a whole. New entertainment technology goes
      > from revolutionary to normal quite rapidly. There were dire
      > predictions made by the silent movie orchestras' union trying to kill
      > talkies, or film executives trying to kill television, or television
      > executives trying to kill the VCR. Once those technologies were in
      > place, however, it was hard to remember what all the fuss was
      > about. Though most of the writing about file sharing concentrates on
      > the effects on the music industry, whatever new bargain is struck
      > between musicians and listeners will almost certainly be unremarkable
      > five years from now. The long-term effects of file sharing are
      > elsewhere.
      > The music industry's attempts to force digital data to behave like
      > physical objects has had two profound effects, neither of them about
      > music. The first is the progressive development of decentralized
      > network models [], loosely bundled together under the rubric of
      > peer-to-peer. Though there were several version of such architectures
      > as early as the mid-90s such as ICQ and SETI@Home, it took Napster to
      > ignite general interest in this class of solutions.
      > And the second effect, of course, is the long-predicted and
      > oft-delayed spread of encryption. The RIAA is succeeding where the
      > Cypherpunks failed, convincing users to trade a broad but penetrable
      > privacy for unbreakable anonymity under their personal control. In
      > contrast to the Cypherpunks "eat your peas" approach, touting
      > encryption as a first-order service users should work to embrace,
      > encryption is now becoming a background feature of collaborative
      > workspaces. Because encryption is becoming something that must run in
      > the background, there is now an incentive to make it's adoption as
      > easy and transparent to the user as possible. It's too early to say
      > how widely casual encryption use will spread, but it isn't too early
      > to see that the shift is both profound and irreversible.
      > People will differ on the value of this change, depending on their
      > feelings about privacy and their trust of the Government, but the
      > effects of the increased use of encryption, and the subsequent
      > difficulties for law enforcement in decrypting messages and files,
      > will last far longer than the current transition to digital music
      > delivery, and may in fact be the most important legacy of the current
      > legal crackdown.
      > -=-
      > * Worth Reading =======================================================
      > - GrokLaw: MVP of the SCO Wars
      > My colleague Elizabeth Lawley of RIT has convinced me that one of the
      > most profound effects of weblogs is the communal workings of those who
      > publish them, and that they contribute significant new value to
      > collaboration across disciplines and boundaries.
      > And now that she's convinced me, I see the pattern everywhere. The
      > Dean campaign piece I posted earlier today exhibits much of that
      > pattern, and so does today's Groklaw piece on SCO. By way of
      > background, SCO, once a technology company, has become a company
      > devoted to a single legal strategy:
      > 1. Assert rights to the Unix operating system
      > 2. Assert infirnging contributions of Unix source code to Linux
      > 3. Sue firms that sell or use Linux, especially deep-pocketed IBM
      > 4. Profit!!!1! (or at least buyout by IBM, to save them the expense of
      > the suit.)
      > Much of the matter is in dispute, and IANAL, but what is clear is
      > this: a) many SCO employees contributed to the Linux kernel, back when
      > SCO was a tech company ("oldSCO"), with the approval of their bosses,
      > and b) the Groklaw is doing an astonishing, world-changing job of
      > finding, documenting and publicizing these occurrences (alongside much
      > other work on the case.)
      > A recent GrokLaw entry reads:
      > Groklaw has reported before on contributions made to the Linux
      > kernel by Christoph Hellwig while he was a Caldera employee. We
      > have also offered some evidence of contributions by oldSCO employees
      > as well. Alex Rosten decided to do some more digging about the
      > contributions of one kernel coder, Tigran Aivazian.
      > [...]
      > This paper is a group effort. Alex's research was shared with
      > others in the Groklaw community, who honed, edited, and added
      > further research. Then the final draft was sent to Tigran himself,
      > so he could correct and/or amplify, which he has done.
      > http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20031210111235600
      > Look at that second graf: "This paper is a group effort." Everyone
      > always says that about complex work, but this is different. This is
      > the end of two-party law, where plaintiff and defendant duke it out in
      > an arms race of $350/hr laywers and "Take that" counter-motions.
      > Instead, we have a third party, Groklaw, acting as a proxy for
      > millions of Linux users, affecting the public perception of the case
      > (and the outcome SCO wants has to do with its stock price, not redress
      > in the courts.) Groklaw may also be affecting the case in the courts,
      > by helping IBM with a distributed discovery effort that they, IBM,
      > could never accomplish on their own, no matter how may lawyers they
      > throw at it.
      > There are two ways to change the amount of leverage you have. The
      > obvious one is to put more force on the lever, and this is what SCO
      > thought they were doing -- engaging IBM in a teeter-totter battle that
      > would make it cheaper for IBM to simply buy SCO than to fight it out
      > in the courts.
      > The other way to get more leverage is to move the fulcrum. Groklaw has
      > moved the fulcrum of this battle considerably closer to SCO, making it
      > easier for IBM to exert leverage, and harder for SCO to. I can't
      > predict how the current conflict will end, but the pattern Groklaw has
      > established, of acting on behalf of the people who will be adversely
      > affected by a two-party legal battle, has already been vindicated,
      > even if SCO avoids bankruptcy.
      > - Tom Coates talks with a Slashdot troller:
      > Tom Coates, who has been talking on EverythingInModeration.org about
      > his travails with a persistent troll on the Barbelith community and
      > his subsequent attempts to ban that user, has elicited a response,
      > which has now become a conversation, with a slashdot troller. This
      > troller, posting as 20721, is arguing that any hidden moderation
      > system helps stimulate an arms race:
      > i believe that it takes a certain amount of hubris to assume that
      > the people you want to exclude are, by their nature, not as smart as
      > you. you may be right about the people you're trying to exclude; i
      > defer to your judgement, i'm not a member of the communities you
      > are; but where i come from, the best & the brightest are the ones
      > being cast out. they're cast out from communities by the following
      > chain of events:
      > 1) secretive backhanded moderation tactic by the admins is discovered
      > 2) someone alerts the community
      > 3) the most technically apt in the community are able to reproduce
      > the backhanded moderation tactic and verify its existence
      > 4) these people call foul and are labelled "trolls" for doing so,
      > leading to the institution of more of 1) (repeat).
      > this is how i started down the road i'm on. i was one of the many
      > people who discovered that the people at slashdot were secretly
      > moderating the users' comments, and one day they moderated the same
      > comment 800 times - and then they lied about it, and said anyone who
      > told the truth about it was a "troll". hence i became what they
      > called me.
      > More, much more, at
      > http://www.everythinginmoderation.org/2003/10/
      > tagging_difficult_users_with_infectious_markers.shtml
      > * End
      > ====================================================================
      > This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.
      > The licensor permits others to copy, distribute, display, and perform
      > the work. In return, licensees must give the original author credit.
      > To view a copy of this license, visit
      > http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0
      > or send a letter to
      > Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305,
      > USA.
      > 2003, Clay Shirky
      > _______________________________________________
      > NEC - Clay Shirky's distribution list on Networks, Economics & Culture
      > NEC@...
      > http://shirky.com/nec.html
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