The law is surely a ass

March 30th, 2003

Via Slashdot and Freedom to Tinker, I learn about a new Michigan law> that comes into effect tomorrow.

This law defines as a felony the following (among other things):

Sec. 540c.

(1) A person shall not assemble, develop, manufacture, possess, deliver, offer to deliver, or advertise an unlawful telecommunications access device or assemble, develop, manufacture, possess, deliver, offer to deliver, or advertise a telecommunications device intending to use those devices or to allow the devices to be used to do any of the following or knowing or having reason to know that the devices are intended to be used to do any of the following:

(a) Obtain or attempt to obtain a telecommunications service with the intent to avoid or aid or abet or cause another person to avoid any lawful charge for the telecommunications service in violation of section 219a.

(b) Conceal the existence or place of origin or destination of any telecommunications service.

For example, as of tomorrow, the following are illegal in Michigan, and anyone who does any of these things is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both. Also, the offending hardware is to be forfeited.

  • simple possession of any device that does NAT routing
  • advertising routers for sale
  • using your company’s VPN
  • possessing a computer capable of Internet Connection Sharing
  • running a web proxy server
  • redirecting your email to another address
  • running a firewall
  • blocking your telephone number from being displayed on caller ID
  • offering a long distance service that uses an access number that obscures the caller’s origin

Need I go on? Musta been a sleepy day in the Michigan lgistlature when this turkey passed.

Every single router in Michigan is now subject to forfeiture. Every single computer installed with Windows98 or later is an illegal internet connection sharing machine.

10 comments to “The law is surely a ass”

  1. Actually the law sounds more like the ole’ color boxes, like Blue and Black. The same ones that Steve Woznaik and Captian Crunched use to make free phone calls, or prevent traces..

    Yes, I realize that a NAT or other listed *could* be an intended device(s) given the broad description I think it less than likely..

    just my $.02


  2. If it’s written in law, it’s prosecutable, and SOMEONE will make use of it to impose their will on others.

    I guess you might also think the Patriot Act will only ever be used for its intended purpose, and not ever to unfairly prosecute innocents. I would tend to think not.

    Laws have to be specific about what they include and exclude – they can’t possibly stand up in court if they’re only prosecuted here and there and then not where it suits.

  3. Laws are prosecutable by law but are also untested rules in our country. By this I mean that if a law is unconstitutional or unjust, it can be overturned by the judicial system.

    Politicians write laws, the judicial system serves to enforce those laws while ensuring it doesn’t infringe on peoples freedoms unfairly. A law must stand up in court.

    As to the article about Michigan, NAT and VPNs, well I would be weary about believing the hype. Technically a VPN is session data that is encrypted prior to entering transit and decrypted after the fact.

    Here’s an interesting comment from Slashdot:

    ” In response to the posters point you quote the law, specifically that section labeled (c). What does that have to do with his point? His ISP provides IP service. He sends and receives packets via that service. Every damn one has a source and a destination. At what point is he in violation of the section you highlighted?

    He violates no law, including this one, operating VPN tunnels via his ISP. He has the right to send and receive IP traffic. The law mentions nothing about the content of the traffic he sends or receives. Presumably he has permission from whoever is at the other end of the VPN to use it.

    You, and the rest of you hypersensitive zealots, need to do better than highlighting some piece of legislation to make your point. It is plainly obvious to me that NAT, VPN, SSL, SSH, HTTP proxies or any of the other mechanisms you folks claim will be made illegal by this law are simply not.

    But have your fun. It’s what you’re all about…”

  4. Here’s another comment from Slashdot that gives food for thought:

    “Most of you are missing a key phrase in the legislation. The part most people are leaving out is: A person shall not assemble, develop, manufacture, possess, deliver, offer to deliver, or advertise an unlawful telecommunications access device….

    Now, what is an “unlawful telecommunications access device”? That is answered under 750.219a which is entitled:
    750.219a Obtaining telecommunications services with intent to avoid charge; violation; separate incidents pursuant to scheme or course of conduct; enhanced sentence based on prior convictions; definition.”


  5. Oh, so now I’m a zealot. And something about “it’s what you’re all about”. Honestly, Ed, ad hominem attacks are pretty unseemly and tend to undermine your point.

    I guess you’ve lumped me in with the /. crowd. I haven’t read the commentary there – I hardly ever do since the signal to noise ratio is way too low.

    You make good points, though. Certainly, the law will be challenged. Bummer that it has to be. It looks as though it could have undergone more scrutiny before enactment.

    Of course, IANAL. My experience though is that unless they are well defined, rules can tend to get overenforced. Call me Chicken Little if you must.

  6. Brent,

    Regarding your statement about me calling you a zealot, I posted the slashdot comment in its entirety on the first post. It is quoted from the beginning to the end of the comment. I apologize if you thought I was calling you a zealot.

  7. I see. A case of unclear context – easy in an unspoken medium. Been there, done that.

    Thanks for clearing it up.

  8. And yes, I do note that the quotes encapsulate the whole slashdot thing. I had missed that.

  9. This has also been a hot topic of discussion on the North American Network Operators, a.k.a “NANOG” list.

    See http://www.merit.edu/mail.archives/nanog/msg08758.html for an example.

    It was a questionable piece of legislation with unclear, shotgun intentions and should be repealed or challenged quickly.

  10. Ridiculous

    I agree 100% with the slash dot comments.

    Do you not know what NAT, VPN etc etc actually does???