the anvil problem

Jeffrey Altman jaltman at
Thu May 30 00:02:05 EDT 2002

> >I'm curious - I've never seen any discussion of this, but it hit
> >home quite forcefully when I was ejected from my battery park
> >apartment on 9/11 and needed to temporarily install some software on
> >a new computer - has anyone made the point that enforced
> >technological copyright
> >protections are detrimental to security because they eliminate the
> >possibility of using that technology in an emergency?
> We call this the "anvil problem".  Your copy protections must not
> prevent you from moving all your soft assets over to another computer
> when your first computer had an anvil dropped on it (or when it fell
> under the roller of a steam roller).

Funny during the days after 9/11 I was using donated computers to
build a missing persons database in downtown manhattan.  We were
scraping together anything would could get our hands on.  Microsoft's
NY office donated several copies of Office XP.  The problem was that
during the crisis there was no method by which the copies could be
registered.  Therefore, after a small number of executions the
software came to a dead halt.  Given the time pressures we were forced
to abandon the work that was done in Office XP.  I grabbed an old copy
of Office 97 and used that instead since it didn't have the limits.  

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