[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[dvd-discuss] Postage Meters and the "Right to Tinker"

Throughout the "TurboTax for free" discussion I've contended that the
"right to tinker" ends at the impact on others.  Clearly none of us
would claim a "right to tinker" which involved breaking into a nuclear
reactor site and rewrite the control rod program to perform a multiband
frequency display for our collection of MP3's.

The question is if someone sends you an unsolicited object, what right
do you have to tinker with it?  What limits are on that right, both
ethically and legally?

<narrator voice="Rod Serling">
Submitted for your approval... the humble postage meter.


This simple looking device has the ability to store and dispense
valuable metered mail stamps, and can be recharge.  Delivered on the
doorstop of our unwitting tinker without his request, is the possibility
of endless, free postal service.  All he need do is tinker.  Extracting
his tinkers toolset from his pocket, he plug the device into his
telephone jack and inspected the coded mysteries exchanged with
"PostageByPhone" -- he finds the key and a moral quagmire appears before
his eyes.

Only in "The Tinker Zone"
</narrator cue="Tinker Zone Theme", fade=black>

I'm looking for any argument that receiving an unsolicited postage meter
in the mail is materially different from that copy of TurboTax.  Both
require a commercial transaction (or a hack) to derive value from the
delivered good (other than as a doorstop or coaster respectively).  The
rights to control both the printing of metered mail stamps or working
copies of TurboTax are both only defended by legal constructs -- both
rooted in the constitution (Copyright Clause and the Post Office
clause?).  Both ignore the long held mantra, "there is no security
without physical security." 

Can anyone argue that a "right to tinker" or a 1A right exists to hack
the postage meter for free stamps?  Can anyone argue that one has an
ethical right to crack the postage meter for free postage because the
meter was mailed to them?

The humble postage meter -- compare and contrast with "keyware".