Signs of Intelligence

Hooray for Representatives Ted Lieu and Blake Farenthold.

Yesterday they introduced a bill in Congress that would prevent any state (or smaller political unit) from requiring encryption backdoors. And yes, their bill is a direct response to the proposed legislation in California and New York that I complained about on Tuesday.

Note by the way, that Rep. Farenthold is a Republican. The bill faces an uphill battle, and early bi-partisan support certainly won’t hurt its chances.

That said, strictly speaking the “ENCRYPT Act of 2016” wouldn’t actually block the proposed laws in California and New York. Those don’t require smartphone manufacturers to include backdoors, they just ban the sale of phones without backdoors in their respective states. I suppose it’s possible that Apple and Google could pull their phones out of the California and New York markets. It’s also possible they could produce a “vulnerable” OS version for sale in those states. But I suspect that just the threat of suspending sales would bring in enough muscle from the telecom companies to squash the bills.

Seriously, can you imagine Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and the rest quietly accepting laws that would prevent them from selling iPhones? They might–might–let Android go, but not iOS.

Note, by the way, that I didn’t include AT&T on that list. As security guru Bruce Schneier pointed out, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says that tech companies shouldn’t be in the position of deciding whether to include encryption, with or without backdoors, in their products.

Schneier suggests that the NSA and FBI are steering policy at AT&T; whether he’s right or not, I do have to wonder if the prospect of losing Apple sales in two enormous markets would change Stephenson’s mind.

Stay tuned–and drop your representative a note asking them to support Lieu and Farenthold’s bill.

Meanwhile, Warner/Chappell is giving up their efforts to hold onto the copyright to “Happy Birthday”. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warners has agreed to a settlement that would release the song to the public domain. An agreement to request a judicial declaration that a work is in the public domain is unusual, to say the least, so it’s possible that the settlement might fall apart at a hearing in March.

But Warner’s decision that the potential income from the song over the next fifteen years wasn’t worth the risk of being penalized for improperly collecting licensing fees if they had lost the class action lawsuit shows rare intelligence from a big media company–a group best known for aggressively hoarding copyrights.

2 thoughts on “Signs of Intelligence

  1. Some fairly confirmable rumor has it that AT&T has been working hand in glove with the gummint for years- since the introduction of the odious “Patriot Act”, in fact. I imagine there’s a well-worn path between AT&T’s executive suites and NSA’s offices by this time, from people passing from one, well-paying job to the other, and back. I wouldn’t look to them for help, in this, or any other, issue.

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    • No argument about the close ties between AT&T and that dad-gummed gummint. But I suspect that all parties realize that a dead company is of no use to anyone. And a telecom that can’t sell Apple products is dead.

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