Celebrating Independence By Making Part of it Illegal

by chromatic

Related link: http://wgz.org/chromatic/perl/brencrypt.pl.gz

I wanted to pick a symbolic target. If I could use a symbol of US pride or history as a mechanism to bypass access controls, I'd put the DMCA enforcers in the unenviable position of claiming that the symbol was illegal.

I settled on the text of the Bill of Rights. It's plain text. It's short, it's easy to get into a canonical form, and it's legal for me to distribute otherwise. It's also the enumerator of the most important rights recognized by the US government.

Using a symmetric cryptography algorithm (CipherSaber 1, a variant of RSA 4) and a program that writes programs, I'm able to encrypt any file, creating a self-decrypting file that requires a secret key. That key, of course, is the text of the Bill of Rights.

If I were to encode an MP3 (to which I do not hold the copyright), a television episode, or even a movie, would it be legal for me to distribute the encoded version? It's useless without the key. It could arguably be called a derivative version, but that assertion is unprovable without decryption. In fact, I dare you to tell the encrypted data from random noise. (Some might claim the resultant Perl program is random noise.)

If the powers-that-be are willing to claim that such programs as DeCSS violate the DMCA (even though the stated purpose is to allow fair-use of DVDs and DVD players under free operating systems), why wouldn't the Bill of Rights also qualify?

To celebrate US Independence Day, you'll need a recent version of Perl (5.005 or newer). To break the law and make the Constitution into an access control device, you'll need to install my Crypt::CipherSaber module from the CPAN. You'll also need to find the text of the Constitution somewhere. I'd link to it, but I think I'm prohibited from doing that now. :)

Is this clever or stupid? Is there a better (read, more dangerous or more symbolic) way to demonstrate the absurdity of absurd laws?


2002-07-04 14:19:50
The Constitution
Here is the address to the national archives. enjoy.