USAT Editorial regarding the 'LaMacchia loophole'

Rohit Khare (
Tue, 02 Dec 1997 14:27:47 -0800

This is so infuriating. To distort what David did in the nation's largest
neeewspaper, whilst compromising morals on the issue at hand to boot.

1) not him who put it there (it was an open forum too open perhaps)

2) the $1M figure is a gas

3) the notion he is a jolly nose-thumber really grates, of course

4) fair use is indeed, not protected enough in the bill


In the trust paper, I formulated my personal insight as to what consitutes
criminal vs civil. Civil law -- contracts -- are sufficient for any trust
decisions where there is recourse available to the parties to the contract.
Audit and rollback. Anything involving monetary damages, for example.

Criminal law is reserved for those trust decisions which lead to
*irreversible* actions, consequences outside the scope of negotiation. Society
as a whole steps in with law where contracts hit the wall.

Off soapbox and back to work on reports for a few people who know I owe them

------- Forwarded Message
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 1997 14:55:26 -0500
From: Declan McCullagh <>
Subject: FC: USA Today editorial opposing criminal copyright bill

An opposing view from Rep. Goodlatte also appears at the URL below. My
article on this unprecedented criminal copyright bill is:,1042,1588,00.html

- -Declan


USA Today Editorial

12/01/97- Updated 11:14 PM ET

Law limits use of Net

In 1994, Massachusetts Institute of Technology student
David LaMacchia invited on-line users to download $1
million worth of copyrighted computer software that he'd
put on the Internet.

In spite of his antics, charges against LaMacchia were
dismissed. Thanks to a legal loophole, hackers who break
copyrights just for fun can't be criminally prosecuted.

LaMacchia's case is just the most notorious example of how
the growth of the Internet has strained the nation's
copyright laws. Duplicating materials in cyberspace is as
easy as clicking a mouse. The market for pirated goods is
as infinite as the World Wide Web. And under copyright laws
from the 1800s, infringement occurs only if a person makes
money from the illegal act.

Determined to deter the hackers, Congress passed a bill
last month making it a felony to duplicate copyrighted
materials on line, including computer software, recordings,
books and articles.

But the bill awaiting President Clinton's signature puts
more than hackers at risk. It threatens the actions of
scientists, academics and Web users, exposing them to
criminal penalties of up to six years in jail.

Researchers frequently use the Internet to distribute
articles that they write but that other publications
copyright. And the Internet now plays an important role in
peer review. Scientists post their published research on a
Web site in hope of encouraging the exchange of scientific

Until now, copyright infringement wasn't a worry for these
folks. Courts recognized the "fair use" of copyrighted
works for noncommercial purposes, including teaching,
research and criticism. To bar the use of all copyrighted
material would be like telling film critics they couldn't
quote dialogue in their movie reviews.

Yet under its new law, Congress makes it a crime to
duplicate copyrighted materials on line but neglects to
include specific "fair use" legal protections allowing the
duplication of copyrighted materials that doesn't hurt a
work's commercial value.

Lawmakers argue that protections aren't needed because the
bill calls for the prosecution only of those who
"willfully" violate copyrights.

Their argument overlooks all the people who know they're
using copyrighted material but do so without criminal
intent: the researchers, students, writers and Web surfers
who duplicate copyrighted materials as a way to

Unless a clear exemption is written into law, all risk
becoming targets for overly aggressive prosecutors.

There are compelling reasons to revise copyright laws for
our digital age. But without guaranteeing researchers the
same protections on line as they have off, Congress risks
limiting the Internet's legitimate uses.


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