Cyberpunks in Congress
In an unusual display of politico-cyberpunk sensibility, a bill was introduced
to Congress on July 25, 2002 to formally legalize hacking. In an apparent
unprecedented victory for the hacker-nation, Rep. Howard L. Berman, a
California Democrat representing the 26th Congressional District (including
North Hollywood) introduced the License-to-Hack Act (also referred to as the
Script-Kiddy Emancipation Act) which essentially allows hackers free reign to
hack publicly accessible peer-to-peer networks.
Explicit License Test:
Pick your Poison
The bill is particularly stealthy in that it has a bizarre asymmetry whereby an
explicit License to Hack is granted under a specific set of circumstances, but
remedies against an attack are only available under a different set of
circumstances. An explicit license would be available if the hacker’s work is
actually on the network attacked, the hacker only affects that network, and the
hacker doesn’t cause more than $50 of property damage. On the other hand, the
target of the attack can only recover from the hacker if he can show that the
hacker no reasonable belief that his work was on the network and that the
hacker caused the target more than $250 of economic damage. The area between
the two can be thought of as a Blind-Eye Implied License.
Blind-Eye Implied License Test:
Blueprint for a Hack
So how does of all this help you? Lets say that you are a nascent script-kiddy
who wants to cause some major mayhem to beef up your street cred. But one
problem, your Mom has threatened to take away your PS2 if you ever get a visit
from the FBI. Mr. Berman has the answer to your prayers.
The first step is to become a ‘copyright owner’. This is easy; just create
something. Write it down, record it or take a picture. Then digitize it and put
it on your website. Note that the bill does not require that you apply for
copyright registration with the Copyright Office in order to avail yourself of
this license. Now that you are a copyright owner, suppose you want to launch
Denial of Service attack on every network that you suspect is trafficking in
your little gem of creativity without your permission. The first step is to
crawl the web for files that could potentially be copies of your work. Once you
have identified your targets, you need to decide whether to opt for Explicit
License or the less safe Blind Eye Implied License. Then go to your favorite
hacking site, download the latest networking-crippling script, and let
What happens when you are on the other side of the equation? Let's say,
for the sake of argument, that you are not a pirate. What recourse do you
have when some script-kiddy spikes your network? Under the bill, the
prognosis is not good. First off, the bill inserts a
gate-keeping whereby you must first convince the Attorney General that you
have a good case before you can even file a lawsuit. Think of that as an
extra 50% chance that there is nothing you can do.
What Can You Do If You are Hacked?
Although the bill has been spun by the media as a heavy handed offensive by the
Copyright Industrial Complex, as you can see from the above analysis, it is
really designed to free the hacker in all of us. Happy Hacking!