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H2K Review

By gbnewby in News
Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 03:55:13 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

The H2K Conference was a great success, and received positive and extensive press coverage practically everywhere but Kuro5hin (and /.). Here is my brief conference report.


H2K: Hacker Activism Alive and Well

A dominant theme at h2k was how hackers are working to create social change. Jello Biafra's stirring keynote speech on Saturday echoed many of the anti-corporate sentiments of the crowd. In a panel discussion Saturday, Jello expressed his support for new technologies for bringing musicians and fans closer together, and proposed the possibility of a "fair trade" online music industry, where musicians would be guaranteed a fair piece of proceeds from online music sales. According to Jello, the greed of mega-corporate media has resulted in inflated music prices (and merchandising) but not benefited artists.

Hackers heard from experts in virtually all areas of hackerdom. Sessions ranged from viruses, to robotics, to lockpicking. Several sessions addressed phone phreaking, and Sunday's "Social Engineering" panel featured a live demonstration of Emmanuel Goldstein calling AT&T's corporate security, followed by a live call-in from Kevin Mitnick.

Jon Johansen and his father led a session detailing their experiences at the hands of Norwegian authorities under pressure from the MPAA. Johansen said that he was one of the authors of DeCSS. When asked by an audience member whether he sought permission from the MPAA before starting to reverse-engineer the CSS, the enigmatic Jon said, "I didn't know I needed to ask permission to use a DVD I had legally purchased." That's telling 'em!

RMS gave an intimate talk on his experiences, as well. In a tye-dyed shirt and threadbare socks, he was in classic RMS form. The CDC performed a shortened (and slightly modified) version of Romeo and Juliet, and updated us on some recent and planned activities. Many well-known and lesser-known hackers, geeks and others (from ex-spys to CEOs) shared their knowledge and answered questions.

A highlight of the conference was a mock trial. Emmanuel was wheeled into the "courtroom" bound, gagged and trussed to a hand truck, in true Hannibal Lecter style. After only 10 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a Not Guilty verdict, absolving Emmanuel (publisher of 2600 Magazine, sponsors of the conference) of liability for violating the DMCA. The audience roared with applause. We can only hope for such a rapid and positive outcome from the real MPAA v. Goldstein trial.

Another highlight was the first screening of "Freedom Downtime," a documentary produced by 2600 that addressed the excesses of the court system and the media in dealing with Kevin Mitnick and other hackers. This was a stirring account tied together by Goldstein's cross-country trip to visit Mitnick in a Los Angeles prison, protest the making of the "Takedown" movie and attend Defcon. They went to the headquarters of Sun, Nokia, and other "injured parties" in the case against Mitnick, but nobody would speak to them there. They also tried to track down Tsutomu Shimomura, who had evidently left without a trace. In an interview with John Markoff, we found that maybe he's not such a bad fellow after all, but does seem to have some problems with checking sources and remembering details. The film received a standing ovation from the packed audience.

H2K wasn't all fun and roses, however. Perpetually delayed sessions, a lack of information about moved and rescheduled sessions, and packed and stuffy rooms left many hackers confused, frustrated or angry. Despite problems, most attendees were thrilled with the high quality of the speakers and the great opportunities for meeting other hackers. The 24-hour computer networking room with hundreds of network connections and a T1 connection to the Internet was a definite hit.

The conference got unexpectedly positive (and largely accurate!) coverage by national and international media. Journalists from AP and NPR were present, and articles have already appeared in Newsday, ZDNet, and other forums. The MPAA v. 2600 trial scheduled to start Monday, July 17 in NY got some media exposure, and hackers had the opportunity to speak directly with media representatives who had a strong desire to truly understand the issues involved.

Copyright (c) 2000 Gregory B. Newby. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.

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H2K Review | 2 comments (2 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
(3.00 / 1) (#1)
by techt on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 08:06:38 AM EST

A highlight of the conference was a mock trial .... After only 10 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a Not Guilty verdict, absolving Emmanuel (publisher of 2600 Magazine, sponsors of the conference) of liability for violating the DMCA. The audience roared with applause. We can only hope for such a rapid and positive outcome from the real MPAA v. Goldstein trial.

At the EFF sponsored DVD Litigation Press Briefing held that Friday, the defense's lead litigator Martin Garbus stated, based on how they have been treated in Judge Kaplan's court and Kaplan's very narrow reading of the DMCA, he expects to lose this first round and take it to a higher court which will hopefully overrule Kaplan's decision. Both Emmanuel Goldstien and Robin Gross stated they were in this for the long-haul and would take it as far as necessary into the legal system.

Johansen said that he was one of the authors of DeCSS.

I thought the part where he explained the actual reverse engineering of CSS by the anonymous German took about 6 hours, and DeCSS was written in about 3 hours was most interesting.


--
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
Are You? http://www.eff.org/support/joineff.html
Nice summation (none / 0) (#2)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 09:24:03 PM EST

But I can't really comment on it. Nice to read though.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

H2K Review | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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