Forwarded by Negativland.
> Bad news from the Napster wars:
> the harder you fight against
> decentralized networks, the more
> enemies you create.
>- - - - - - - - - - - -
>By James Grimmelmann
>Sept. 26, 2001
>Their hatred is implacable, their forces are decentralized. They seek
>the protection of remote hosts for their secret bases. Their networks
>are weblike and personal, difficult for outside observers to
>penetrate. They use e-mail, encryption and other new technologies to
>hide their dark doings.
>Pay close enough attention to the descriptions of America's newest
>enemies coming from Washington's talking heads, and something starts
>to seem oddly familiar. Haven't we heard about these people before?
>Wasn't it just a few months ago that we were being warned about their
>dire plans and the civil liberties compromises required to fight
>them? But no. That wasn't about Osama bin Laden at all. That was
>about ... about ... Napster?
>Strange but true: The rules of engagement in "America's New War" have
>a great deal in common with the content wars of the last few years.
>The RIAA and the MPAA -- the FBI and the CIA of the entertainment
>industries -- have been involved in extended legal battles with the
>music traders and software hackers of the world, and the strategies
>they have employed show some striking parallels to recent American
>anti-terrorist strategic thought. Consider:
>* All security is insecure.
>The DeCSS debacle began when a 17-year-old amateur cracked the
>encryption scheme on DVDs. If there's an unpenetrated Web server or
>uncracked content-protection scheme out there, it's only because no
>one truly dedicated has tried to break it. As long as the media
>industries rely on technology-only solutions to protect their
>content, that protection is purely nominal, falling quickly before
>the determined hacker.
>The harsh lessons of computer security are worth keeping in mind when
>thinking about terrorism. Systems are large and complex beasts and
>therefore vulnerable; the United States and its people are perhaps
>the largest and most complicated system in the world. An attacker has
>free choice of attacks: The hijackers last week were able to ignore
>the tight physical security around the World Trade Center by choosing
>an airplane-based attack instead. Security is what you use to spot
>your attackers and slow them down long enough for you to respond. Far
>better to seek out your opponents than to wait for them to come to
>* The front line of the conflict is human intelligence.
>Shutting down any loose network -- whether it's a cluster of
>terrorist cells or a peer-to-peer file-sharing system -- depends on
>closing the knowledge gap between initiates and outsiders. The mere
>existence of a strong program of infiltration has an enormous
>deterrent effect: How can you recruit new members with confidence if
>every potential recruit might be a plant?
>There's no way to just search the Internet for everyone running
>personal Web servers to share out their MP3s, but with enough
>dedicated surfers, the media companies have been able to spot most
>sites big enough to worry about. The result is that people are forced
>underground: They trade music in smaller networks than in Napster's
>day, sacrificing convenience for safer obscurity.
>Something similar operates in the realm of anti-terrorist
>intelligence. There's no setting on spy satellites or metal detectors
>to scan for "terrorist," but enough skilled agents who fit in can
>track down any terrorist cell that interacts with the outside world.
>The MPAA had an easier time of it than the CIA will -- it's a lot
>easier to hire for Internet credibility than it is to hire for
>radical terrorist credibility -- but it's the credibility, rather
>than the technology, that opens doors and lets the light of law
>* If you can't shut down your enemy, shut down his hosts.
>When the MPAA tried to suppress the distribution of DeCSS, it quickly
>discovered that many of the individual users posting the code to the
>Web were prohibitively difficult to identify, ruling out direct legal
>action against them. The MPAA instead targeted their ISPs: legally,
>the Web hosting companies were obligated to take down DeCSS pages,
>unless the users were willing to stand up in court and be sued.
>Through this sidestep, the MPAA was able to sic its lawyers on the
>people it really wanted to sue, or failing that, make the problem go
>In declaring that the U.S. government would not distinguish between
>terrorists and regimes that harbor terrorists, President Bush acted
>on the same principle. Like the ISPs, the Taliban would prefer to be
>a bystander in any conflict. By making them liable for the safe
>harbors they grant, though, Bush transferred some of the weight of
>U.S. pressure to a more identifiable target -- in order to acquire
>greater leverage against his real enemies.
>So far, so good. But though Washington has been quick to copy from
>Hollywood's playbook, it also seems reluctant to learn from the ways
>in which those plays have failed.
>* Zealous enforcement tactics against old enemies breed new enemies.
>Before Napster, few people had strong opinions about the record
>companies, and their voices were rarely heard. But in the process of
>hunting down a few college students whose main offense was liking
>music too much, the RIAA managed to antagonize much of the software
>community and civil libertarians everywhere.
>How did they blow it so badly? By giving its old enemies powerful new
>arguments, tons of publicity and an impressionable audience to preach
>to. Those students and music fans started hearing about cartels and
>Gestapo tactics when they asked why their Napster wasn't showing any
>It's hardly any surprise the RIAA didn't understand how bad the P.R.
>consequences of a heavy hand would be: The U.S. as a country has a
>long and bloody history of isolating moderates while it chases
>What will happen if the government of Pakistan is forced to do so
>much of our dirty work that it destabilizes itself? How much ill will
>will we harvest once the bombs start falling? And so on. Bold action
>may sometimes solve present problems, but it carries enormous risk of
>creating worse ones in the future. More worryingly ...
>* You can make them hide, but you can't rid the world of them.
>Or at least, if you can, the RIAA hasn't figured out how. Napster
>went down in flames, but the Napster clones are numerous, thriving,
>better-hidden and harder than ever to take out.
>Flattening your visible enemies inspires your remaining enemies to
>stay invisible; unless you make them no longer your enemies, they
>will find a time and a place of their own choosing to emerge from
>hiding. The best "victory" one can hope for in fighting a
>decentralized foe is not to eradicate them, but only to suppress
>Try explaining this fact in Washington today, though, and nobody
>seems to be listening. Has Israel been able to eradicate Hamas? Has
>Britain been able even to suppress the IRA? For that matter, how well
>has China done in eliminating Falun Gong? Which raises one last and
>especially disturbing point, one that ought to go without saying ...
>* Terrorists are not the only people who operate in decentralized secrecy.
>There are other peer-to-peer rebels out there, working in secret to
>change the world -- and most of them are what we would normally think
>of as the good guys.
>Think of Afghan dissidents spreading the rhetoric of democracy from
>Internet cafes. From the perspective of the Afghan government, they
>look much the same way terrorists who coordinate attacks through
>e-mail look to us. Think of demonstrators scattering to avoid
>punitive raids from the police; think of rebel leaders trying to
>organize a resistance movement. A lot of people will be watching very
>carefully what the United States does to wage this new sort of war.
>On the one hand every new tactic we develop to defend democracy can
>be turned against the forces of democracy somewhere else in the
>world. And on the other, every bulwark the Internet provides against
>the anti-dissent squads somewhere far off and repressive, it provides
>also against the anti-terrorist branch of the FBI back home.
>Technology giveth, and it taketh away. The same filtering software
>that protects children from pornography is used by repressive
>governments to "protect" their citizens from critical opinions. The
>new formats for compressing music designed to sell more CDs instead
>became the leading techniques for its illicit distribution.
>As we prepare to develop ruthless new "weapons" in the fight against
>global terrorism, it is hard to overstate the need for some
>reflection on the ways those tactics might eventually be turned
>against us and those principles we believe in. A strange prospect,
>perhaps, but then again, until last week, how many people seriously
>thought of a passenger jet as a weapon of war?
>- - - - - - - - - - - -
>DANIEL J LYNCH
>Partner, Creative Director
>Media Design & Production
>(415) 864-3302 - VOX
>(415) 864-3402 - FAX
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