Geekspeak: May 13, 2002

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-05-13 Print this article Print

Scanner law shows futility of Digital Anti-Copying Legislation.

For almost a decade, its been illegal in the United States to sell a radio receiver (except to telecommunications companies and government agencies) that can pick up cellular telephone transmissions between 816MHz and 902MHz. But the "scanner law" failed to make all full-coverage receivers disappear. For that matter, do a search for Web pages containing the words "unblocked" and "receiver" to find out how many "Canadian models" of popular radio receivers are still sold.

We offer this example as a reality check on the proposed legislation that would block all U.S. trade in PCs or other digital communications devices that lack built-in limitations on copying of digital content. Such laws, if passed, would not destroy millions of existing machines, nor would they prevent a brisk non-U.S. trade in uncrippled hardware—a market that would likely equip mass-production counterfeiters just as well as before.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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