Perhaps I'm missing some critical facts on the subject, but I went to five of the listed state bills. I read the text of two of them and skimmed three others. All of them pertained to illegally receiving communication services. It was obvious in the wording that it refers to cable and satellite television piracy. In several of the bills the original unrevised text specifically stated multi channel video, and/or cable television.
The bills make it against state law to posses, manufacture, use etc, any devices that allow one to decrypt a television signal which would otherwise have to be paid for.
In a couple of them language was also included to cover obtaining internet access and cellular phone service without paying for it as well.
In all instances though it involved the obtaining of services for which a fee is normally charged.
This is a matter of the DMCA, but in none of the bills is there any reference to the use of firewalls, email encryption, or NAT as is suggested in the article.
I'm not seeing where they are making the connection between television piracy and firewalls.
The quote used in the article, "conceal from a communication service
provider, or from any lawful authority, the existence or place of
origin or destination of any communication" i spart of the Texas bill, and if taken alone I can see how it would suggest that. Read in the context of the rest of the bill however, I cannot see that being it's intent.
It appears to me that a corporate entity, one in particular comes to mind, wants to make the DCMA clearer in state law to facilitate the prosecution of future lawsuits similar to several they have currently in process, which are not going as well as they had planned.
It specifically says that any communication where the sender or recipient is hidden will be against the law. If you use a firewall, or take part in any encrypted transaction (such as paypal), then you will be in violation of the law.
Actually, the Texas law in question reads as follows:
SECTION 6. Sections 31.14(a), (b), and (d), Penal Code, are
amended to read as follows:
(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally
or knowingly manufactures, assembles, imports into the state,
exports out of the state, distributes, advertises, sells, or
leases, or offers for sale or lease:
(1) a communication device with an intent to:
(A) aid in the commission of an offense under
Section 31.12 or 31.13; or
(B) conceal from a communication service
provider, or from any lawful authority, the existence or place of
origin or destination of any communication;
(2) an unauthorized access device; or
(3) plans or instructions for assembling or
manufacturing a communication device or unauthorized access
device, with the knowledge that another person intends to use the
plans or instructions for an unlawful purpose
Section 6 (a) (1) (B) does deal with the legality of equipment or software that is used to "conceal from a communication service provider, or from any lawful authority, the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication." However, Section 6 (a) shows that this is only a question of legality in relation to those who would sell, lease, or import such equipment into the State AND it must be done intentionally or knowingly. Furthermore, it appears in the overall context of the bill, that this is only in relation to action taken in selling/leasing/importing this equipment "with the knowledge that another person intends to use the plans or instructions for an unlawful purpose."
That being the case, I would suggest that this bill will not be used to attack firewall owners/users or PayPal users at all. Instead it will be used to prosecute those who are trying to rip off ISPs and such. Even so, I will agree that the bill could have been worded more explicitly to have excluded private, legal usage of firewalls and the like.
The entire bill pertains to theft of electronic services.
Unless this is some underhanded attempt to include something totally irrelevant to the bill itself, I seriously doubt that is the intent.
I can see where that passage would pertain to cellular communication, because that would fall under the overall subject, but for them to suggest it would criminalize people who are using paypal or sending email through an isp with which they are legally allowed to do so it stretching it to say the least.
In essence if that were true, then any form of encryption used by anyone would become illegal. Online purchases would either cease or would become completely open to interception, which would bring a halt to e-commerce, because all shopping carts on websites are encrypted.
The intent of the bill is not exactly meaningless. In fact, the intent of the bill will be the determining factor in the judgment of the Texas court system if/when anyone is charged under this law to be in violation of it, after an appeal is made.
State legislatures make laws all the time that are vague, meaningless, or overly broad. Law enforcement applies the law as they understand it. People are either convicted or they are not, and they either appeal their convictions or they do not. If appealed, the courts will go back to the intent of the law, see that 99.99% of it was written specifically about the theft of ISP/Cable TV services, and overturn the conviction of anyone that was charged for merely having a firewall in their system.
That's all dependant upon someone actually wasting his time to enforce a law in this narrow way, when it is obvious that it was never intended to be used in that fashion. Could it happen? Sure. Will it? I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. There are too many other battles over our civil liberties that are true threats, which need to be addressed first.
Does this mean that AOL users will all become felons?
As far as I know, all AOL users send messages via proxy servers, which means that their real identity via an ISP is effectively hidden. They can also pick screen names at will, which will not reveal their true identity. So it is pretty nearly impossible to determine what the real identity is of any AOL user. This has been the bane of all message board operators.
But if a person can effectively shield their identity on the net, how in the world will they be prosecuted?
Sheesh, next thing you know they'll be making the penalty for attempted suicide the electric chair.
And since we are talking about laws and freedom, let me ask it here: Why is prostitution illegal? What right does any government have to tell you what YOU can and cannot do with your own body?
Prostitution is illegal because the governing bodies feel they can decide what is morally correct, mostly because church and state are not so seperate as they should be. That and they probably haven't figured out a way to collect taxes on what money prostitutes make.