Monday, August 24, 2009

The DMCA should exempt computer-science undergraduates

This thought struck me yesterday, when I was traveling towards Delhi - reflecting upon my college days. I'm a Computer Science & Engineering graduate, and back in my college days, I, like any other CS undergrad, used file-sharing programs extensively (I've probably used about 10 of them). I also downloaded and used all sorts of cracks, keygens, loaders, patches, and serials to rip-apart the piracy-protection measures used by commercial software, and make them run forever.

I believe that of all people on this planet, at least CS undergraduates should be fully exempt from the provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. CS undergraduates are the people on whose shoulders rests the future of computer science - the next Facebook, the next Twitter, the next Omegle, the next Firefox, and so on (and the next Napster as well).

These HyperSmart people should be free (free as in beer and free as in speech) to tryout and explore any application/service they want to, any way they want to. Because curtailing their freedom to explore the frontiers of computer-science - in the name of law - will stifle their ability to understand, apply, and innovate.

Some specific examples? CS undergrads should be free to
  1. Violate the EULAs of commercial software, and TOS of online services.
  2. Setup online radios or media-streaming-servers using VLC.
  3. Use cracks to activate Windows 7 Ultimate, Office 2007, etc.
  4. Irresponsibly disclose security flaws in popular software.
  5. Reverse-engineer the Windows OS, or steal stealable source code.
  6. Hack into their university's networks, or try to bring it down.
  7. Download and use unlicensed copies of any commercial software.
  8. Install Mac OS X on non-Apple hardware, and crack-open iPhone OS.
  9. Download copyrighted content off BitTorrent/LimeWire/other P2P.
  10. Setup proxy servers to circumvent firewall restrictions.
  11. /*

1 comment:

  1. Update (6-Feb-11): I'm not too happy about the conviction and imprisonment of computer science experts such as Albert Gonzalez. Instead of hailing such geniuses, the fearful, lesser-capable mortals are putting them behind the bars.

    Bottom line: Hacking is alright. Those who build and sell broken (read "insecure") systems should be behind the bars. Not those who exploit the holes.