Digital Militia

Aimee Deep has an interesting article about defense against copyright-holders trying to hack into computers and destroy files if they suspect that you are hosting content that is in violation of their copyrights.

At the end of the article, she asks:

Now tell me, scholars of the Bill of Rights, because I’m still in High School, what is a standing militia for?

To which I immediately wondered did she mean a standing army or a militia?  I can understand, given the sad state of teaching in this area of late (especially with the advent of politically-correct revisionist history), how this might be an area in which her education has failed her.

Our founders envisioned a country where the “regular” or standing army would be very small.  They (rightly in my opinion) feared what would happen with a large standing army, having just finished a very nasty experience with the (large, standing) British army.  Further, our founders didn’t believe in interventionism or entangling alliances with foreign powers (”’T is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”—George Washington).  Given that, who needs an army?

Their idea was that the body of the people* would comprise the militia, which could be called up in time of war to defend the country.

Perhaps in this case, all able-minded “hackers” could be thought of as the militia of the cyber-United States, arising to defend the country and themselves from the depredations of mauraders.

Of course, a requirement for a militia is that each member of the militia posess such arms as are generally accepted into use by soldiers at the time, such arms to be supplied by the soldier himself.

In the case of cyber-attack this would require certain tools that might run afoul of the DMCA as well as proposed anti-hacking legislation that is currently being considered.  Interesting how the politicians and big companies don’t want us to have the tools to protect ourselves, but will reserve them for their own use.  As an ardent defender of RKBA, I find the parallel particularly instructive.

Also, given the parallel to self-defense, there is the issue of pre-emptive damage to the other.  If someone is causing damage to your system, I think you would have a right to take whatever steps are necessary to stop that damage, up to and including causing damage to that other’s system.  Provided, of course, that you were actually under attack at the time.  In the case of self-defense, if I fire a gun at another person, I will have to show justfication after the fact (i.e. review by the police, the district attorney, the grand jury, and possibly a trial-if it comes to that). 

Anyway, to paraphrase from my RKBA roots: They can have my firewall when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

* The United States Code declares the militia to be able-bodied males betweeen 17 and 45 (see this for a definition of militia, or this for a quote from the actual section of the United States code).

Update:  Aimee calls me a scholar on her page.  Thanks, but I’m just an IT guy who takes an interest in these issues.

I enjoy my (fairly) large collection of (legal) MP3s and I believe that people should pay for what they use.  However, I don’t approve of the tactics being taken by the RIAA (and MPAA for that matter).

The DMCA is impacting the lives and freedom of programmers everywhere (the DeCSS saga is a good example).  I don’t want to see any more laws of its ilk passed.

Just because someone is running a P-to-P file sharing program it doesn’t mean that they’re automatically guilty of copyright infringement.  The industry already had legal remedies to illegal copying, they just didn’t want to use them.  This battle is alienating their customers, and no business can survive by doing that.  They have a very limited window in which to correct the problem, but I think they’re doomed, because they just can’t see the problem.  They’re scared for their business model and they’re afraid to take steps to find one that works (although I think we may be seeing some progress on this front from some of the smaller, independent labels).

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