Feds want your laptop

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ceti ceti's picture
Feds want your laptop


ceti ceti's picture

Did anyone see this? This is huge.


OTTAWA -- The federal government is secretly negotiating an agreement to revamp international copyright laws that could make the information on iPods, laptops and other devices illegal, according to a leaked government document.

The deal could also force Internet service providers to hand over customer information without a court order.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement would see Canada join the U.S. and the European Union in a coalition against copyright infringement.
SFU student Marc Terrien uses his laptop yesterday at a Vancouver coffee shop. He worries about the proposed international agreement infringing on people's privacy.

Federal trade agreements do not require parliamentary approval.

Border guards and other public security personnel could become copyright police under the deal. They would be charged with checking laptops, iPods and even cellphones for content that "infringes" on copyright laws, such as ripped-off CDs and movies.

The guards would determine what infringes copyright.

- [url=http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=ac94392c-7e05-4e30-... Province[/url]


Yikes. You know, it's funny - the last couple of trips I made to the US, I took my laptop, and I was worried about exactly that - whether the border guards would inspect my laptop and find downloaded music on it. I mean, it's legal to do it here, but not legal to do it there, so I suppose they could have been jerks about it had they wanted to be.

They didn't look at the laptop at all, but it did cross my mind when going through customs.

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

What I want to know is, if they find a bunch of mp3s on your player, how are they supposed to tell whether you downloaded them from Limewire (presumably illegal) or from emusic (perfectly legal)? Will they just assume that a song in a non-DRMed format (like mp3) is pirated?



They can actually take your laptop, cellphone, blackberry, etc and tear it apart, keep it for years or go through every file if they wish (and they have, which has sparked a furious discussion with my peers about sensitive data). Many firms now send laptops with no data on them to employees for trips, allowing them to connect remotely for the data and wipe the laptop before returning (some even jsut dump that laptop before returning home)

ceti ceti's picture

Laptops should be wiped before crossing the border, otherwise there is always a chance that customs will make an example out of you. Even one song would do it according to this proposed law.

The use of copyright to subject average citizens to unreasonable search and seizure is pretty draconian. It's a monumental leap in police state powers. This should be bigger news!


Bacchus and Ceti comments should be taken seriously.

But, at least in the USA, if you password protect your laptop you do not have to give the authorities the password.

A Federal judge recently made a ruling on this point.

If you are interested Goggle: Vermont, Niedermeier, Boucher, computer and pornography.

Sven Sven's picture


Originally posted by scooter:
[b]Bacchus and Ceti comments should be taken seriously.

But, at least in the USA, if you password protect your laptop you do not have to give the authorities the password.

A Federal judge recently made a ruling on this point.

If you are interested Goggle: Vermont, Niedermeier, Boucher, computer and pornography.[/b]


But, better yet, here's a copy of the [url=http://www.volokh.com/files/Boucher.pdf]the actual court opinion[/url].

Not to quibble too much, but a ruling by a single federal magistrate judge is not “the law” in the U.S.

A federal judge’s opinion does not represent any binding precedent. It is strictly limited to that specific case and the hundreds of other federal judges ruling on the exact same facts in the future are free to have a different opinion. The only time a case decision becomes “the law” is when an appellate court says it’s “the law” (and then only for the geographic or subject-matter jurisdiction of the particular appellate court). Only the U.S. Supreme Court can establish “the law” for the U.S.


Its just another example of the court system scrambling to catch up with technology.

Thanks for posting the judgement.


A quick read of the ruling shows that this isn't the first ruling. The "act-of-production doctrine" goes back to a Surpreme Court ruling in 1976. [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Hubbell]United States v. Hubbell, wikipedia[/url].

If you secured your laptop with a physical key you could be forced to product it. If you use a password you can not be forced to produce what you know. Just make sure you have no physical copy of the password.

[ 30 May 2008: Message edited by: scooter ]


having connectivity and mouse clicking issues.

[ 30 May 2008: Message edited by: scooter ]

Sven Sven's picture


Originally posted by scooter:
[b]A quick read of the ruling shows that this isn't the first ruling. The "act-of-production doctrine" goes back to a Surpreme Court ruling in 1976. [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Hubbell]United States v. Hubbell, wikipedia[/url].[/b]

Every court opinion cites prior cases for support for the court's opinion. But, that's why there are appellate courts (to address the inevitable disagreement over new or difficult issues that the lower courts are trying to rule on).

So, another federal judge could have heard this exact same case and ruled in a different manner...even citing the same prior cases in her opinion as support for her opinion.

For example, a federal judge ruling that execution by injection is not "cruel and unusual punishment" would cite the Constitution and opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps the opinions of Federal Courts of Appeal, as support for her opinion. Another federal judge may cite the same authorities but come to a different conclusion. Ultimately, the matter could remain "unsettled law" (and thus different courts coming to different conclusions) until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling one way or the other.

It's all a very messy process... [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

A Blair

Hate to quibble, but I beat you to the punch by a number of days on this story. The following thread is substantilly about the same thing:

[url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic&f=2&t=009809]Em...'s Frankenstein: Secret Trade Deal Attacks![/url]

PS: And yes it is huge, and massively under-reported.

[ 02 June 2008: Message edited by: A Blair ]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/01/AR200808...' Laptops May Be Detained At Border
No Suspicion Required Under DHS Policies[/url]

Washington Post, August 1, 2008 [excerpts]


Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The policies...are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies -- which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens -- are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter.

Civil liberties and business travel groups have pressed the government to disclose its procedures as an increasing number of international travelers have reported that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices had been taken -- for months, in at least one case -- and their contents examined.

The policies state that officers may "detain" laptops "for a reasonable period of time" to "review and analyze information." This may take place "absent individualized suspicion."

The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover "all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "

Reasonable measures must be taken to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, the policies say, but there is no specific mention of the handling of personal data such as medical and financial records....

"They're saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler's laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law," said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Notably, he said, the policies "don't establish any criteria for whose computer can be searched."

Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said the efforts "do not infringe on Americans' privacy."...

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that "the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices."...

In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco upheld the government's power to conduct searches of an international traveler's laptop without suspicion of wrongdoing. The Customs policy can be viewed at: [url=http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/travel/admissability/search_authorit... (5 pp. .pdf)[/url].

[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: M. Spector ]


I wouldn't bring a laptop across the border but I do have a smartphone that contains all sorts of mp3s. I concede that some of those may be considered pirated but those are on a separate memory card that I can remove in a jiffy. So far, nobody is looking at cellphones. I also have a flash drive that I keep in my wallet that I keep files on and I don't see any need to call that to anyone's attention (unless I just did).


What a wonderful world we live in these days.
The answer is not to go there.
The other problem is in Canada we have a government dressing up in the same conservative uniform as they have down south.
What about musicians and others who hold copywrite on their matterial?
How far should we go to protect them? That becomes the real question? There are a lot of people out there just starting out in the music industry and their stuff is being stolen, afterall they are trying to make a living too.
I don't watch movies much and I buy my music as
I wouldn't like people stealing apples off my trees.
Still I think governments are being a little heavy handed here.