Jack Valenti Wants Your Router


The Motion Picture Association of America is evidently working to outlaw any device or technology that obscures the IP addresses of Net users. Why? Hang on.

For some time now, the MPAA has waved the Digital Millenium Copyright Act at Net service providers, warning them that failure to stop customers from trading copyrighted material puts them in violation of law. Some providers have, in turn, warned heavy files swappers to knock it off, often citing language in terms-of-service agreements prohibiting file servers on residential accounts.

But ISPs have also told the MPAA that they cannot always know who might be swapping stuff. Anyone who runs a router or a good piece of firewall software on their broadband connection can stop the ISP from knowing what they are up to. So in steps the MPAA to say, "We can fix that."

Valenti's posse has hit state capitals with draft language for bills which would ban any technology that keeps what you do hidden from ISPs. Princeton University scholar Edward Felten says the language is so broad even encrypted email would be banned. Felten has found "super DMCA" efforts afoot in Texas, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, Tennessee, and Colorado.

If you live in one of those states, your computer is about to be opened up for inspection by Hollywood fatcats. That they decided to try to get away with it while public attention is focused elsewhere tells you just how serious they are.

BTW, Felten's Freedom to Tinker blog is a great stop for anyone who cares to retain some say in how they use technology.