11.0683 ACM report on Internet activities

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 7 Apr 1998 20:42:07 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 683.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

From: Dave Farber <farber@cis.upenn.edu> (256)
From: Ian Butterworth <i.butterworth@ic.ac.uk>
Subject: ACM report on Internet activities in the U.S.

[The following taken from Professor Butterworth's report to participants
in the upcoming Seeheim conference, with thanks. --WM]


U.S. Office of Public Policy of the
Association for Computing Machinery


April 3, 1998
Volume 2.3





Intellectual Property Legislation
President Speaks on Internet Taxes
Novel Data-Scrambling Method Proposed
Senate Committee Approves Two Net Censorship Bills
Hearing on Scientific Partnerships
Information Technology Partnering Act
Policy Articles in Communications of the ACM
Upcoming Hearings


"Shaping Policy in the Information Age"
May 10-12, 1998
Washington Renaissance Hotel
Washington, DC

The leading professional society in computing will hold its 1998 conference
in Washington, DC and focus on public policy issues affecting future
applications of computing.

Our goal is to promote ongoing engagement between computing professionals
and policy makers to further the productive use of computing and
information processing innovations. Computing professionals can become
more influential if they are more informed about political processes and
issues. Policy makers can be more effective if they have access to
technical experts who can provide thoughtful testimony and offer a wide
range of options.

Attendees at ACM Policy 98 will exchange ideas with prominent leaders from
academia, industry, Congress, and Executive agencies. Join us on May 10,
1998 to explore the ethical and social issues related to computer
technology, participate in the debate between Esther Dyson and Gary
Chapman, and honor computing professionals at the ACM Awards Banquet. Then
on May 11-12, 1998 listen as national leaders present their reports:

Speakers include:

* Senator Orrin Hatch (invited): Future of Intellectual Property
* Special Advisor to the President Ira Magaziner: White House Report
* Representative Vern Ehlers: Reformulating US Science Policy
* Representative Constance Morella: The Role of the Federal Government in
* Federal Trade Commissioner Mozelle Thompson
* Robert E. Kahn, President, CNRI: Technology Keynote
* Assistant Director Juris Hartmanis: The Role of the National Science
Foundation in Computing Policy
* Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information: Larry
* Debate: Esther Dyson and Gary Chapman
* ACM Presidential Award for founding NetDay: John Gage, Sun Microsystems
* Making Science Policy: Roundtable with NPR Correspondent Dan Charles

Policy Panels:

+ Electronic Commerce
+ Intellectual Property
+ Learning Online
+ Universal Service

Ethics and Social Impact Sessions:

+Kids Online: Home, School, and the Web
+Privacy: Lost in Cyberspace?
+Point and Counterpoint: Media Views of the Future of Computing

For Conference and Registration information see:




On March 31, 1998, the House Judiciary Committee marked up H.R. 2281, the
"WIPO Copyright Treaties Implementation Act." Introduced by Representative
Henry Hyde (R-IL), H.R. 2281 makes the use, manufacture or sale of any
technology that can be used to circumvent copyright protections illegal.
Rather than providing protection and legal against the act of unlawful
circumvention itself, H.R. 2881 focuses instead on the technologies used to
enable the circumvention. The Act which is backed by the Clinton
Administration has the stated purpose of enacting the World Intellectual
Property Organization (WIPO) copyright treaties passed in Geneva in
December of 1996. However, the Act would actually go much farther than the
treaties require, disrupting the balance between owners, creators and users
of copyrighted information. The anti-circumvention provisions of H.R. 2281
would give content owners the unprecedented power to bar consumers
(including value-added innovators) from making copies of material that is
being distributed commercially to the public, effectively gutting the fair
use doctrine of copyright law.

USACM criticized this approach which was ultimately rejected in the WIPO
treaties. USACM wrote, "This could adversely effect a company which
legitimately develops a product that people use for different purposes than
that for which it was developed. Since it is likely to be extremely

difficult for a developer to collect data about the primary use of the
product, it may be impossible to refute a claim made by copyright holders
who argues that the primary effect of a particular device is copyright
infringement. As a result, the Article could have the undesired effect of
dissuading manufacturers or software producers from investing in a new
technology with substantial non-infringing purposes for fear that an
anxious copyright holder might pursue litigation using the "primary effect"
standard. USACM concluded, "We believe that the Article should address the
intent of the individual or company, not the effect of its actions or product.

Furthermore, this bill would impede encryption research that helps ensure
secure networks, prevent legitimate reverse engineering in the development
of new software, and effectively overrule the Supreme Court's decision in
Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984), which
permitted the home taping of television broadcasts.

A much better WIPO implementation bill, which punishes the "act" of
unlawful infringement and maintains fair use protections, is H.R. 3048, the
"Digital Era Copyright Enhancement Act." H.R. 3048 would encourage the
development of new technologies and markets for copyrighted works in
digital form, while giving intellectual property holders the strong tools
they need to go after infringing conduct.

H.R. 2281: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:H.R.2281:
H.R. 3048: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:H.R.3048:
USACM letter: http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright/wipo_copyright_letter.html



On March 19, 1998, The President released a brief statement rescinding his
call for a short-term moratorium on new and discriminatory taxes that would
"slow down the growth of the Internet, and a search for long-term solutions
to the tax issues raised by electronic commerce." Instead he stated, "We
cannot allow 30,000 state and local tax jurisdictions to stifle the
Internet, but neither can we allow the erosion of the revenue that state
and local governments need to fight crime and invest in education."

The President continued by praising the agreement reached by groups
representing state and local elected officials as "an important and
constructive step towards a long-term solution."




Ronald Rivest, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology and one of the inventors RSA described a new approach to data
scrambling, in a short technical paper posted at his web site. He
describes the process as "chaffing and winnowing" digital information
instead of encrypting it.

Rivest's paper explains that it is possible to hide a message by breaking
it into packets that are secretly identified as good information, or
``wheat,'' and gibberish, or ``chaff,'' in such a way that an eavesdropper
cannot distinguish the two.

According to Rivest, because the individual packets would not be encrypted,
such a system would circumvent current export restrictions. His paper
concludes, "As a consequence of the existence of chaffing and winnowing,
one can argue that attempts by law enforcement to regulate confidentiality
by regulating encryption must fail, as confidentiality can be obtained
effectively without encryption and even sometimes without the desire for
confidentiality by the two communicants. Law enforcement would have to
seek access to all authentication keys as well, a truly frightening
prospect. Mandating government access to all communications is not a viable
alternative. The cryptography debate should proceed by mutual education
and voluntary actions only."




The Senate Commerce Committee approved two bills on March 12 designed to
limit access to material on the Internet. S. 1619, introduced by Senator
John McCain (R-AZ), requires that schools and libraries must "select a
system for computers with Internet access to filter or block matter deemed
to be inappropriate for minors" before they can receive money under the
E-Rate Universal Service fund to provide net access from the Federal
Communications Commission. The Committee also discussed amendments
introduced by Senator Burns and Breaux that would limit the scope of the
bill. The amendments will be considered before the legislation is sent to
the Senate floor.

The other bill, S. 1482, introduced by Senator Dan Coates (R-IN),
criminalizes the distribution of commercial material that is "harmful to
minors." The penalty is a $50,000 fine and six months jail time. In
additional, the bill also says that violators " shall be subject to a civil
fine of not more than $50,000 for each violation. For purposes of this
paragraph, each day of violation shall constitute a separate violation."

In the House, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced H.R. 3442, E-Rate Policy
and child Protection Act of 1998 on March 11. The bill would only require
that "an elementary or secondary school or library that obtains services or
preferential rates or treatment under this section shall establish a policy
with respect to access to material that is inappropriate for children."

More information is available on the bills from the Internet Free
Expression Alliance at: http://www.ifea.net



Pursuant to the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, the House
Science Committee held two hearings on March 11 and 25 in order to provide
input for Rep. Vern Ehlers' National Science Policy Study. The first
hearing focused on successful scientific partnerships and the second on
reviewing the benefits to the U.S. from international scientific cooperation.

On March 11, flexibility in policy was the key element stressed by
witnesses at the hearing. The national labs' CRADA process was criticized
for both its lack of adaptability and its over-emphasis of intellectual

property rights, which "sometimes turned out to be an impediment",
according to professor David Mowery, of Univesity of California at
Berkeley. Other elements of successful parterships were also cited,
including an understanding of each others' goals, cultures, and time
scales, as well as effective, understanding management.

On March 25, the witnesses agreed that because of constrained science
funding in the U.S. and the increasing quality of research done in other
countries, in many cases the U.S. can effectively leverage its resources
by partnering. This, said Ehlers, enables American researchers to "reap
the full benefits of that research at a fraction of the cost of performing
the research ourselves." However, the witnesses echoed Ranking Minority
Member George Brown (D-CA) when he called the U.S. approach to
international collaborations "disjointed, to say the least."

In closing, Ehlers said he hoped his policy study would develop a more
effective process for bringing all the players on board at the beginning of
a large international collaboration. He added that while many see risks of
failure in committing to large projects, such as ITER, current policies and
technologies are not always sufficient for the future. "We can fail by not
going forward, too," he declared.

Ehlers will be discussing the science policy study at the ACM Policy 98
conference on May 12 at 8:30 AM.




On March 18, 1998 Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced H.
R. 3496, known as the Information Technology Partnership Act. The bill
would "develop a demonstration project through the National Science
Foundation to encourage interest in the fields of mathematics, science and
information technology," according to Ms. Johnson. The bill, if passed,
would allocate funds for teacher training in math and the sciences and
private sector participation in the form of computer donations and student




The April issue of Communications of the ACM is dedicated to "Digital
Libraries: Global Scope, Unlimited Access." USACM member Pamela Samuelson's
article "Encoding the Law Into Digital Libraries" appears in the Legally
Speaking column. In it she discusses the tensions between the
technologists who build the digital library systems, the users, and the




April 28, 1998. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee


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