Freedom to write crypto software (was: DRM technology and policy)

Peter Clay pete at
Mon Apr 28 15:52:49 EDT 2003

[reply-to should be set to f-s-uk where this is on-topic]

On Sat, 26 Apr 2003, Dan Geer wrote:
[analogy between producing drinking glasses and drinking songs]

> Thus over time I must decrease my cost of reproducing my drinking
> glass if I am to stay in business.

> Thus over time I must increase your cost of reproducing my drinking
> song if I am to stay in business.

These are very different statements. You can achieve (a) by acting alone
or in conjunction with business partners. You can achieve (b) by (b1)  
installing DRM and by (b2) changing the law to ban certain categories
of crypto software.

(a) is fine; that's what capitalism is all about.
(b1) is also fine; let it stand or fall in the free market.
(b2) is what I'm against, and why I'm posting to crypto despite the
fact that copyright is not on-topic.

I reckon that many people on the crypto list would disagree with the
statement, "The government should regulate what crypto software people are
allowed to write and use in the interests of national security and
saving lives".

I'm surprised to find people effectively agreeing with the statement, "The
publishing (of film, music, e-books) industry should regulate what crypto
software people are allowed to write and use in the interests of
the publishing industry making money".

That's what it comes down to. If someone - anyone, anywhere - uses the
Foobar SnakeOil(tm) algorithm for encrypting copyrighted works, then you'd
better not publish any information on how to break Foobar SnakeOil(tm)
unless you're prepared for a nasty legal mess.

The DMCA has some exceptions for "bona fide" encryption research (s. 1201
g) but what that comes down to is you having to argue in court that your
hat is very white while the prosecution sling mud at it.

The European Copyright Directive has no such loophole.

Anti-circumvention laws are a threat to cryptography and cryptographers
everywhere. A narrower threat than blanket export laws, but still a

Remember the crypto wars? People may have been inconvenienced, but AFAIK
Phil Zimmerman wasn't arrested for writing PGP. Dmitri Skylarov was
arrested for writing a decryption program that used keys already present
on the user's hard disk to decrypt ebooks that the user had also
legitimately obtained. He spent time in prison in the US for writing
crypto software.

Peter Clay                                         | Campaign for   _  _| .__
                                                   | Digital       /  / | |
                                                   | Rights!       \_ \_| |

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