Geekspeak: May 13, 2002

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.