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My Thought on the Proposed Legislation to make Virus Code Illegal in the U.S.A.

Matt Miller
C.R.I.S [1]
November 1993

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Please read the following:

AMENDMENT I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

AMENDMENT II

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

AMENDMENT IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

AMENDMENT V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

OK, I'll try to be brief here.... From the above we receive our "rights" of Freedom of Speech, The Right to Bear Arms,The Right to be secure in our personal spaces and not to have to put up with illegal search and seizure, We are also assured that our personal property will not be taken without due process of law. That being said, why should anyone have the right to tell another what type of code he/she may have on their own personal computer? I understand the laws against software piracy, that's the same as theft, but I do not understand why anyone should be able to tell me that I may not keep virus code on my PC. I know it's been discussed before, but this issue is comparable to our laws on guns. We allow people to own guns for their own personal enjoyment, and for protection. Some perverse individuals use them to kill others, yet we do not tell the rest of the gun owners that they may no longer own them. Some people own viruses for their own personal enjoyment, and also through studying them they contribute to the protection of their systems. It seems to me that we should enact tough legislation against those who use this code to knowingly damage others systems, but those that just want to see what they are capable of, or study them to aid in the prevention of infection, should still be able to legally own and obtain them.

I don't want to get into a lengthy discussion/interpretation of the constitution as it may apply to this issue, rather I would simply like to state that there are both responsible and irresponsible people in the world. Just because some are irresponsible with certain things does not mean we should take them away from those that are responsible. If legislation is passed to make the possession of viral code illegal it will only send virus writers and the like further "underground".

As it stands right now, it is rather easy for those with an interest to obtain virus code. This includes antivirus software authors and consultants, as well as the layman who just wants to "check them out".

My questions are simple, and the answers should be plain to all:

  1. In a Democratic society who should have the right to tell another what type of code he or she may possess on their own personal computer?
  2. If we outlaw viruses what will we actually accomplish? Will we only succeed in driving the virus authors back "underground"?
  3. Just because a few individuals use this code irresponsibly, does that give anyone the right to tell the rest of us that we may not possess it?
  4. By making this code illegal will we hamper the efforts of those who want to study it to help prevent infections?
  5. If it is made illegal for the general populace to own viral code, who then should be allowed to possess it, and what type of standardized, Government administered, test should they have to pass? What should the exact criteria be? How would consultants and other new anti-virus software authors gain access to viruses?
  6. If we allow the Government to make this type of code illegal, even to those among us who are responsible and have no desire for destruction, what will they want to ban next?
  7. Would allowing this type of legislation set a dangerous precedent? (Think about the PGP/Personal Encryption issue before you make a hasty answer here...)

Well that's about all I have to say on the issue, let the reader make up his/her own mind. Just be sure to make an informed decision, do not be so hasty to lump all "VX" bbs's into one group. Some people actually think that virus code in and of itself is harmless, it takes human intervention for it to be destructive. They think that there should be strict laws against the misuse of this code to knowingly cause damage to another's system. They also believe that just because there are a few fools out there, that is no reason to tell the populace at large what it may or may not possess in the sanctity of their own home/business. Take a few minutes to read the Amendments at the beginning of this article, then sit back and digest that for a few seconds... Now honestly answer the above questions.

Matt Miller
Comments are most welcome, flames to /dev/null!
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