Letter to Rob Andrews

The other day I wrote a letter to House Representative Rob Andrews concerning the Berman Bill just introduced into Congress. The Bill would allow copyright holders like the RIAA and MPAA to disrupt illegal peer to peer file traders using technological means. They wouldn’t be able to delete any files or use viruses, but they may be able to use Denial of Service attacks on individuals without any guidelines for how much evidence is actually needed. Also, the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution would ensure this law applied to all copyright holders. This means I could theoretically shut down your Internet connection if I suspected you were trading my files (I won’t). Read on for the text of the letter.Dear Representative Andrews,

I recently learned of a Bill introduced by Representative Howard Berman from California that would allow copyright holders to use technological means to discourage or prevent individuals from breaking copyright laws. The bill limits the liability of the copyright holder in doing things that would otherwise be illegal, and although methods like deleting files and using viruses would be forbidden under the Bill copyright holders would be allowed to use what is called a “Denial of Service” (DOS) attack.

A DOS attack is one of the following:

1. An attempt to “flood” a network, thereby preventing legitimate network traffic
2. An attempt to disrupt connections between two machines, thereby preventing access to a service
3. An attempt to prevent a particular individual from accessing a service
4. An attempt to disrupt service to a specific system or person

All of these disruptions are illegal under current US laws. The problem with deputizing copyright holders like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is that performing DOS attacks does not just hurt the individual copyright law breaker. It also harms the individual’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) and all of the ISP’s customers by clogging up network bandwidth with “noise” in an attempt to disrupt copyright violations. Bandwidth is not free for ISP’s and eventually this cost is recovered at the expense of home users. The Bill contains a clause preventing copyright holders from causing “economic loss to any person other than affected file traders,” but I suggest you talk to an Internet Service Provider about the cost a DOS attack will have.

Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution the Bill would also apply to any copyright holder, and not just the MPAA and the RIAA. The Bill would allow any individual to carry out their own DOS attack on copyright law breakers. Strangely, the Bill does not even include guidelines for what level of evidence is needed when preventing copyright infringement. This would allow individuals and organizations to carry out attacks with minimal suspicion.

Even though I am a copyright holder myself I strongly urge you to oppose this Bill, because it does not do enough to protect legal data transactions and ISP’s from the collateral damage of DOS attacks.

Ben Garvey
Oaklyn, NJ

Here are some links to more information:

Text of the Berman Bill:

Information About Denial of Service Attacks: