Subject: Re: Lessig (was Re: As if the DMCA wasn't bad enough)
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 10 Sep 2001 23:17:59 -0700

 10 Sep 2001 23:17:59 -0700
Russell Nelson <> writes:

> Karsten M. Self writes:
>  > Lessig Is GodŽ.
>  > 
>  >  Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace  is highly recommended.  His NYT
>  > editorial on Sklyarov is featured at the
>  > website under literature.  He's a boardmember of the EFF.  Read his
>  > shit, he gets it.
> No, actually, he doesn't get it.  He complains that libertarians think
> that the main enemy is government, and that Code Is Law.  Problem is:
> code isn't law.  Law is law, and only law can prevent me from changing
> a program.  I have a source code file for MS-DOS's version
> 1.0.  Nobody gave me this file; I created it myself.  I have made
> improvements to it.  Had that code tried to prevent me from doing
> things, I could have removed the code.

That's not a great example, though.  You're showing an example from
the current era, in which the common case is a general purpose
programmable computer, and the Code does not enforce limits on
disassembly or on copyright.

Consider the future in which most net access is done from an appliance
running Windows CE, which no longer presents a general programming
model, in which all programs require an authentication key provided by
Microsoft, and Microsoft only grants keys to approved software.  The
only approved software for playing MP3s only plays it through the
speakers, and does not permit any sort of digital copying.

I saw Lessig speak at Stanford, and he made an interesting point.
When programmers think about these issues, they sometimes say ``sure,
but I could run a server in some country which has not signed the
Berne Convention, such as Taiwan, and anybody with a general purpose
computer could download my MP3 program and play their bootleg MP3
whenever they want.''  But only 1% of the population will do that.
When lawyers like Lessig think about these issues, they think that 99%
compliance with the law is total success.  (For example, I'm sure that
at least 1% of the people in the U.S. don't pay any taxes, but nobody
thinks that U.S. tax law is failing to operate.)

In other words, it's true that many of the people on this list will
never be trapped by new network architecture.  But most of the people
in the world could be.  Code is law.  Today's code is libertarian law.
Tomorrow's code could be something else entirely.

> Everything political happens
> because of a gun, even if that gun is holstered.

Yes, and I can sleep safely in my home only because of a holstered
gun--not mine, of course, since I don't own a gun, but the
government's.  In any case, government in the U.S. has more or less
been taken over by corporations through the campaign finance system;
the DMCA is a prime example.  (I assume you mean to refer only to the
government here, rather than to politics in general--I would say that,
e.g., the EFF is clearly a political organization).  But weren't you
just saying something about non-FSB postings on FSB?