• United States

RFP: Omniscience Protocol

Jun 30, 20033 mins

In another great example of the people’s representatives at work, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has come out four square in favor of weapons of mass computer destruction.

Hatch, who is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was interested in “destroying” the computers of people who illegally download copyrighted material. He said this “may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights.”

Well I guess that crushing the cars of speeders instead of giving them tickets would teach drivers about the evils of going too fast, but it does seem a bit over the top.

The good senator is willing to get Congress to pass legislation to exempt copyright holders from liability when they “destroy” a multi-thousand dollar computer because of $10 in illegal music. I’m sure that the attitude of the copyright holders is that it’s OK for a few honest people to have their computers executed as long as the machines of the dishonest are killed. But I expect that would not scale, and even the music industry would not be able to continue turning computers into doorstops if it did so in error all that often.

On the off chance that the senator actually meant what he said – something that one cannot always assume when politicians move their lips – I would like to offer some requirements for the Omniscience Protocol which will be needed to do the job right. Omniscience Protocol must:

• Be able to install itself into all types of computers over the objections of the computer user.

• Not be findable by virus detectors, but all hackers’ programs that mimic the Omniscience Protocol must be findable.

• Be able to remotely differentiate between legal and illegal copies of the same material.

• Be able to remotely differentiate between illegal material and other material with the same file name.

• Be able to find illegal copies even if the filename has been changed.

• Not be able to be run by a hacker, and the Omniscience Protocol interface into a user’s computer must not be able to be exploited by a hacker.

• Not be able to be used to extract information from a user’s computer that is unrelated to illegal copies.

• Be able to discern the motives of the operator and not run if those motives are not pure (for example, block any operation that might stem from a vendetta).

• Be able to run through firewalls and network address translators.

• Allow for the operation of the Omniscience Protocol client to not be spoofed.

• Be able to tunnel through the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The above is just a start. I’m sure you can come up with additional requirements; if you send them to me I can compile them and forward them to Hatch. If you have such a protocol you can contact Hatch directly (right after contacting the patent office).

Disclaimer: I suppose the Harvard Divinity School deals with Omniscience Protocols, but I didn’t get a chance to ask it about this case.