Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
United States

Copy That Floppy, Lose Your Computer 766

Over the weekend we posted a story about a new copyright bill that creates a new govt. agency in charge of copyright enforcement. Kevin Way writes "In particular, the bill grants this new agency the right to seize any computer or network hardware used to "facilitate" a copyright crime and auction it off. You would not need to be found guilty at trial to face this penalty. You may want to read a justification of it, and criticism presented by Declan McCullagh and Public Knowledge." Lots of good followup there on a really crazy development.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Copy That Floppy, Lose Your Computer

Comments Filter:
  • by PlatyPaul ( 690601 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:14PM (#21642901) Homepage Journal
    In case you missed the message, Don't Copy That Floppy []!

    (warning: may cause eye strain and/or brain damage)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:14PM (#21642907)
    Since the intarweb is used to facilitate copyright infringement, the gov't can seize the entire series of tubes!
  • A new AGENCY?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Azuma Hazuki ( 955769 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:15PM (#21642931)
    An entire new agency in charge of stopping copyright violations. Wonderful. I am SO glad to know our government has its priorities straight.
    • Re:A new AGENCY?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeffasselin ( 566598 ) <cormacolinde@gmai l . com> on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:29PM (#21643189) Journal
      The government is by the people for the people. At least in theory.

      But the politicians are those who enact laws, and although they are in theory elected by the people, such elections are only possible thanks to the big money corporations give them. So, yes, those politicians have their priorities very straight: helping those that give them the money they need to keep their jobs.
    • Re:A new AGENCY?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:32PM (#21643243)
      Makes sense. After all, this is about protecting the only market the US still has the upper hand and that generates more revenue internationally than it costs.

      Take a look at the industry sectors. Agriculture? Heaps more imports than exports. Industry? Which? Production is outsourced to China. Service? Great, but you can only export a service when someone comes to you and consumes it, and leisure travel to the US isn't really too appealing with the rather xenophobic approach since 9/11.

      So what's left is content and patents. News, entertainment, rights. To create an entire agency to protect what's left of the US commerce is quite logic.
      • Re:A new AGENCY?! (Score:4, Informative)

        by OldeTimeGeek ( 725417 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:47PM (#21643541)
        Agriculture? Heaps more imports than exports.

        No, not really. The latest US Department of Agriculture forecast has a $15B net surplus [] for agricultural exports over imports for FY 2008.

      • Re:A new AGENCY?! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Znork ( 31774 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @02:41PM (#21645361)
        "After all, this is about protecting the only market the US still has the upper hand and that generates more revenue internationally than it costs."

        Mmm, no. Tricking _other_ countries into recognizing intellectual monopoly rights generates more revenue. Implementing more monopoly rights yourself merely makes your country less competetive, and strengthens the rights of _other countries_ to exact revenue from _you_.

        "So what's left is content and patents."

        Yeah, well, guess who's gonna own the monopoly rights of that content and those patents? Lets just say that the growing economies arent so dim they havent realized they too can get monopoly rights in the US.

        Realize this: Intellectual 'property' is, and always has been, a covert distributed taxation scheme.

        Saying enforcing IP 'protects jobs' is no different than saying 'raising and enforcing taxes protects jobs'. Give someone the right to exact taxes from some part of the economy and there's no limit to how large expenses they can create and how many workers they can employ. That does not equal competetive and efficient free market economy.
  • EFF Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:16PM (#21642933)
  • by john_is_war ( 310751 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {senivj}> on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:16PM (#21642939)
    If someone on my schools network downloads an illegal mp3, then the RIAA has the right to confiscate and sell every single router, switch, and hub between the two people... clogging the tubes is bad enough, but taking them away and stealing them?
    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:29PM (#21643183) Homepage
      I'd like to seem them try to take the router from the local ISP. That could cause some major problems. Or the DNS root server that facilitated the copyright infringement. Legislation like this shows that the lawmakers have absolutely no clue how the internet works.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by compro01 ( 777531 )

        Legislation like this shows that the lawmakers have absolutely no clue.
        those last 4 words were pretty redundant.
    • by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:39PM (#21643395)
      Look at the (shudder) bright side.

      With everybody's computer taken and sold, there is now going to be a booming market in new computers, all preloaded with Vista. What a windfall this shall be for the computer manufacturers and Microsoft.

      How do you prove you've never downloaded anything off the internet? You can't. Doesn't matter if you have legal copies of the CDs you've ripped down to MP3 and stored on your computer, even if you have the reciepts for them, how do you prove you didn't just download them instead of ripping them from CD?

      And the theory that absence of evidence doesn't mean absense of crime is rather disturbing to me.

      • by egomaniac ( 105476 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @03:22PM (#21645933) Homepage
        I bought a retail copy of MS Office. I'm looking at the CD right now. Unfortunately, somehow the case (on which the CD key was printed) disappeared, probably because of my two-year-old son's love of placing expensive things in trash cans when nobody's looking. I needed to reinstall it, but couldn't find the case and thus didn't have a valid CD key.

        So that leaves me with a dilemma. I know I bought and paid for the thing. I've got the stupid CD. But I couldn't find a key online which would work for this particular copy (as with all Microsoft products, there are umpteen million variations, and a key from one variant won't work with any others). So I downloaded a torrent of the same Office version (but obviously a slightly different edition of it).

        Technically, I broke the law. I could be thrown in jail and have all of my stuff confiscated for my horrible, evil copyright infringement. But... did I actually do anything wrong? I submit that I did not. When the law makes "not doing anything wrong" not only illegal, but assigns extremely harsh penalties which could destroy my life, we as a nation have collectively lost our minds. I could have stolen a physical copy from a store and faced much less serious penalties, and THAT crime actually would have harmed the store owner. My "crime" harmed no one and was not even unethical (in my opinion), and I risk jail time, massive fines, and confiscation of all my stuff. Thanks, politicians!
  • by beef curtains ( 792692 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:17PM (#21642961)

    Amendment V

    No deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    I understand here that "due process of law" is actually being changed to make this legal, but I feel that the following serves to define "due process of law" in a way:

    Amendment VII

    In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

    • by mothlos ( 832302 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:32PM (#21643253)
      Look at civil forfeiture law in the US. The government can sue your property and is given the ability to seize and sell your property based on a mere probable cause that the property was used for criminal purposes. []
    • by wattrlz ( 1162603 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:35PM (#21643299)
      In addition: Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • leave the US while you can. Serious.

    Well, let's see what happens in the next elections. If the people lose, you're welcome to establish here below the Bravo :)

  • by forgotten_my_nick ( 802929 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:19PM (#21643013)
    Based on other laws coming out in the USA in the last 8 years this isn't so bad. It just means you should do your copying on the latest most expensive machine in the local shop, report them then pick it up at auction for buttons.
  • funny how... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:21PM (#21643041) Homepage Journal
    For the past five to ten years, lawmakers have passed an incredible number of laws that the courts had to sort out as unconstitutional. It's almost as if they abandoned sensible work for a "let's try everything and see what works" attitude.

    Really, is it just my perception or has the number of stuff that was made a law only to be killed by the courts as unconstitutional skyrocketed? I really wonder, why that is.
    • Re:funny how... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:40PM (#21643411)

      Really, is it just my perception or has the number of stuff that was made a law only to be killed by the courts as unconstitutional skyrocketed? I really wonder, why that is.

      Don't know if there's a trend, but it does happen a lot. I believe reason is for election grandstanding. Come the following election, some Congressman can say he's tough on X while his opponent's soft, where X=[crime, guns, drugs, violent games, porn, sex offenders, copyright, gay rights, etc]. This works well for both campaign ads as well as soliciting contributions from companies who take an interest in these matters. It doesn't matter if the courts kill the law; the poor guy still tried and it's not his fault those Commies on the bench ruined everything. Or so he says.

      Similarly, that's also where you'll see the 417-3 votes, where somebody will sponsor a bill against killing kittens, with a line item here or there including funding for pork projects. Nobody can vote against your amendment without voting for killing kittens. And the three people who do vote against it will have fun come re-election time, when the opponent saturates TV with commercials that state how much the guy enjoys killing kittens.

      • Re:funny how... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nerdonamotorcycle ( 710980 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:32PM (#21644275)
        Indeed. I really wish there were some procedural way to penalize legislators who pass blatantly unconstitutional legislation. As you say, there's a tendency on the part of Congress to pass this sort of crap to make it look like Someone Is Doing Something and let the courts sort it out later. The problem is, SCOTUS doesn't get a case until someone's directly adversely affected by the law. That "someone" also has to be a good test case. (Sympathetic-appearing defendant, facts clearly on the defendant's side, law clearly open to misinterpretation/misapplication, etc.) Meanwhile there will be a lot of other "someones" out there who get screwed over who don't have the resources to pursue things through the courts to that level and/or whose cases are a lot more ambiguous.
      • Re:funny how... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Monday December 10, 2007 @02:08PM (#21644881) Homepage Journal
        Which is why we NEED a "one bill, one topic" law. []

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AeroIllini ( 726211 )
          I disagree.

          Riders and amendments are another check and balance in our government, the same as the power of the SCOTUS to overturn legislation. They prevent the tyranny of the majority by allowing the minority party (or parties, ha!) to still get something done. It is part of the culture of compromise that Congress should be (and, day-to-day on a majority of issues, grandstanding aside, still is).

          Pork is a vital part of the culture of compromise: "I'll let you add this amendment to get funding for X program
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
            If the system did grind to a halt and nothing got passed, we'd surely be better off than we are with the current state of affairs, where riders are used to sneak unrelated legislation past both Congress and voters, often to the detriment of all but a select few.

            Second, if things did grind to a halt, maybe Congress would relearn how to actually compromise on a bill's terms, until it's something everyone can live with. That, too, protects minorities -- while sneak-riders do the exact opposite.

          • by Alsee ( 515537 )
            Not only do I disagree, I suggest almost the exact opposite. I do not want two bad pieces of legislation that could not be approved independently two artificially glued together in order to shove both of them through, and for those two bad pieces of legislation to rely upon nothing more than legislative log-jam to preserve them from both being independently repealed.

            If a chunk of legislation did not have sufficient (50%) support on it's own, then presumptively there would be more than 50% support for some n
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:23PM (#21643073)
    This is absurd. There's no point in even debating that.

    I think it's the (RI|MP)AA asking for the moon - that way, when they tone down their demands they won't sound as absurd.

    Look at it from this perspective: how much resources do you imagine the FBI is dedicating to copyright infringement given the number of embarrassing gaffes that the entertainment industry is making? The entertainment industry wants a government department with powers similar to the FBI but dedicated purely to copyright enforcement. Such a department could not reasonably refuse to assist in arresting some relatively innocent granny because they have higher priorities.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:24PM (#21643093) Homepage
    This make sense to me in some ways. I know people who were caught poaching fish (catching more than their license allowed). They had their fishing rods taken away, as well as their boat, and the truck that they towed the boat, and just about anything else that was even remotely involved in the crime. It may seem a little excessive, but it's quite a deterrent. Getting your computer taken away for sharing copyrighted content seems to be in alignment with most of the other laws I've seen. Now if this is excessive, than maybe all the other consequences for a lot of other laws are also a problem, but that's a different issue.
    • by GeckoX ( 259575 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:45PM (#21643507)
      Er, big difference. If you aren't found guilty, you get your boat and other confiscated things back.

      This specifically entails skipping the due process involved. Basically, they can write you a spurious ticket and take your hardware...and never give it back, irregardless of whether you're guilty or not.

      This crap really has to stop. Someone has to draw a line. No, actually, the whole country needs to draw a line, and demand that everything that has already crossed that line be revoked. Things in the US are starting to cross over into the land of the surreal. Jumped the shark is an understatement, and I KNOW that this is not the kind of thing your average American citizen wants to see happen.
      • by kindbud ( 90044 )
        irregardless of whether you're guilty or not.

        I'm sorry, but due to its extreme inanity, I have trademarked the non-word "irregardless" and now charge $50,000 per violation. Pay up!
    • by LordKaT ( 619540 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:18PM (#21644053) Homepage Journal
      The problem is that computers are not a hard boats and fish kind of thing. With computers I can use an exploited chinese machine to do all of my downloading, then use a relatively robust services, like Tor, to download that material.

      All of this while using a network connection that's three blocks away from me.

      The law also says that they can auction off the items immediately, rather than waiting to prove that to violated copyright. You know those honeypots that people set up? Yeah, the ones that only have the titles of material and just junk data? Those computers would be seized and auctioned off too.

      This law also doesn't discriminate between illegal and legal filesharing. You terrorist sumbitches that keep sharing Ubuntu via BitTorrent are going to be REALLY surprised one morning.

      No, this isn't a deterrent. This is legislation, drafted by a conglomerate of corporations, attempting to address something that is slowly becoming a cultural phenomenon.
    • by MikePlacid ( 512819 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:36PM (#21644351) []
      Close examination of the rootkit that Sony's audio CDs attack their customers' PCs with has revealed that their malicious software is built on code that infringes on copyright. Indications are that Sony has included the LAME music encoder, which is licensed under the Lesser General Public License (LGPL), which requires that those who use it attribute the original software and publish some of the code they write to use the library. Sony has done none of this.

      So, based on the proposed bill - how much of Sony would have been auctioned of I wonder...
  • by Stanislav_J ( 947290 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:34PM (#21643273)

    Are you suggesting that here, in the Land of the Free(TM), that the government would seize and auction off your assets for a copyright "crime" even if you haven't been adjudicated as guilty? Oh, come you'll try to tell me that they'll seize and auction your car and keep your cash if they even suspect you of having drugs! (Chuckle) that's gonna happen....

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:34PM (#21643281)
    Download some MP3s at work. In comes the MAFIAA, seizes all computers and your company goes down the loo. Whether the company has anything to do with it is irrelevant. Guilty 'til proven innocent. Well, even if proven innocent, the hardware is gone and won't come back.

    Is that how I should imagine this?
    • by Tipa ( 881911 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:17PM (#21644013) Homepage
      People at Harvard do illegal file sharing. Now the government can take all their computers! Woohoo! I bet they have nice stuff. They can go there on their way to MIT!

      The government is going to have absolutely awesome computers. And the beauty of it, is they can sell them, then go back and impound them later! Sell them again and again and instant $$$ Budgest crisis? Solved! Funding wars against the rest of the world? PAID FOR! Impound and auction, rinse and repeat!
  • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:35PM (#21643297) Homepage
    ..that the BusyBox developers could have Verizon's servers seized for the GPL violations?

    I can't wait.

    (Not that I really expect that would ever happen even if this became law. We all know there's one law for the people and another for the corporations (and yet another for the politicians).)

    What I'd really like to see is a constitutional amendment (that's what it would take) that automatically bars an official from re-election if he or she proposes, sponsors, or votes for legislation like this which is prima facie unconstitutional (they've violated their oath of office to uphold the constitution).

    But I don't expect that to happen either.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jtheletter ( 686279 )

      What I'd really like to see is a constitutional amendment (that's what it would take) that automatically bars an official from re-election if he or she proposes, sponsors, or votes for legislation like this which is prima facie unconstitutional (they've violated their oath of office to uphold the constitution).

      While on the surface this sounds like a great idea, and I'd be all for it, unfortunately there is no way to craft such a law that makes sense. As an example take Prohibition; once it was made law if t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AJWM ( 19027 )
        Well no, the Constitution itself specifically allows for amendment, so proposals to amend the constitution (even repealing one of its earlier amendments) would not fall under my suggested prohibition.

        Proposals of laws that violate the Constitution without amending it appropriately first, however, would.

        And yes, there are subtleties involved, that's why I said "prima facie violates the constitution", ie, blatantly obvious. For more subtle issues perhaps the Supreme Court would have to be the final arbiter f
  • Remember AT&T Unix (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Sokol ( 109591 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:04PM (#21643815) Homepage Journal
    Back in the days before Linux and FreeBSD, back when AT&T Bell Lab Unix ruled the earth. 70's and 80's
    AT&T Unix source code was somehow put in some national security list. Basically if you were caught with a copy of the source without having had paid or part of some University that paid the $60,000 source license, the Secret Service would come with guns drawn and seize every piece of electronics equipment on the premises.

    There is little documentation that this had even happened and almost none of the victims ever received there hardware back. []

    the Chicago Task Force were now convinced that they had discovered an underground gang of UNIX software pirates, who were demonstrably guilty of interstate trafficking in illicitly copied AT&T source code.
    & []

    This finally ended with Steve Jackson Games that managed to sue them for a similar seizure.,_Inc._v._United_States_Secret_Service []
  • by penguin_dance ( 536599 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:19PM (#21644061)

    This is the same crap as the drug seizure laws. Everyone thought--great, take the houses, cars, property of the drug dealers. However, what's ended up happening is people are having their cars seized [] because a friend had a small amount of pot. Worse yet people are having large amounts of cash seized [] with the attitude that you must prove yourself innocent. It doesn't matter that no drugs were found or any evidence of drug dealing, just the fact that you're carrying a large amount of cash [] is considered a crime. And good luck getting it back!

    Friends, our freedoms are being eroded away while we stand by. According to the Supreme Court, municipalities can grab your land under imminent domain to sell to Wal-Mart or someone building condos. Police can seize your cash for no reason other than you're carrying it and now they want the right to seize you computers on the claim that you might have illegally downloaded something. It's got to stop or this really will be a police state.

Loose bits sink chips.