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Congress to turn hacks into hackers

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If House Hollywood sock puppet Howard Berman (Democrat, California) gets his way, it will become legal to hack a network in efforts to impede the on-line illicit trade in copyrighted works.

He's preparing legislation, apparently forced on him by the Hollywood fat cats he represents and who have lavishly bribed him into docile, purring submission.

The bill will create a legal safe harbor for what Berman euphemistically calls "technological self-help measures." He really means 'technological vigilantism', but whatever you call it, I like it.

In Berman's own words, this lunatic bill will establish "a safe harbor from liability for copyright owners that use technological means to prevent the unauthorized distribution of their copyrighted works."

How cool is that? When Berman's bill is passed I'll be allowed to break in to the pass-protected members' sections of Web sites and root people's corporate networks and home boxes whenever I have a 'reasonable suspicion' that The Register's copyrighted works might be getting passed around without permission.

As readers know, I've been covering hacking and security for quite some time. What may not be known, though, is that as a result of my work in this area and consequent exposure to the 'scene' (infused, as it is, with such selfless generosity and mutual goodwill), I've long nurtured the secret fantasy-desire of becoming a hacker myself. Only the criminal-penalties aspect of it has kept me from indulging myself.

But now, thanks to the Honourable Berman, I can soon hang out my script-kiddie shingle and start teaching myself the ropes. Of course I'll have to be careful not to do any accidental damage. "A copyright owner shouldn't be allowed to introduce a virus that disables the computer from which infringing works are being made available to a decentralized, P2P network," Berman says.

But I'll gladly stay away from dangerous things like viruses and worms. This is going to be such fun. And it's not just me. Anyone who publishes original content will be able to fend off the FBI with a simple, "d00d, I thought they were archiving my blogs, honest."

And when it comes to filling up that precious pr0n collection on a budget -- well, just think of the possibilities. You can become a 'publisher' just by posting a Polaroid of your topless girlfriend on your personal Web site. Now it's time to root all the pay sites for illicit copies of it. You can't do any damage, remember; you can't delete any files or deface any Web pages, but Berman hasn't said anything about downloading files to your local machine. So long as you don't publish the files or share them you can probably keep them, and the poor porno Webmaster can't hit back (unless he, too, has a "reasonable suspicion"). How cool is that?

Oh, this is going to be one fabulous piece of legislation, all right. Personally, I can hardly wait for it to be passed into law. I'll be sure to thank Hillary Rosen when I'm legally breaking in to the RIAA network, searching for illicit copies of my articles. ®

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