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

As Sham points out it is not the possession of the meter, or the tinkering with it that is the issue, it is the use of it to defraud....the other problem with .002's analogy is "how is TurboTax being defrauded?" They actually are not. They are just not getting revenue (the activation fee) rather than being forced to spend it (as in the post office). TurboTax is in the same situation if nobody activates it or if everybody cracks it.

Sham Gardner <mail@risctaker.inka.de>
Sent by: owner-dvd-discuss@eon.law.harvard.edu

01/09/2003 09:12 AM
Please respond to dvd-discuss

        To:        dvd-discuss@eon.law.harvard.edu
        Subject:        Re: [dvd-discuss] Postage Meters and the "Right to Tinker"

On Thu, Jan 09, 2003 at 09:40:36AM -0700, John Zulauf wrote:
> 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.
>  http://makeashorterlink.com/?P48932CF
> 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.

I wouldn't say that there is any difference between receiving these two
items unsolicited in the mail. However I would say there is a difference
between using a "tinkered with" postage meter to produce genuine looking
postage stamps *and using them to defraud the postal service* and using the
contents of the TurboTax CD on your own computer to perform some

Here I would say (morally, the present legal situation is probably
different), that using stamps from a modified postage meter to obtain
services from the postal service is no different than using stamps forged
with the help of some other device. It's not fiddling with the printer
that's the moral problem, it's using its output to defraud the post office.

> require a commercial transaction (or a hack) to derive value from the
> delivered good (other than as a doorstop or coaster respectively).

The postage meter could also be used to print pretty stickers. I would argue
that you have the right to do that. It's attempting to pass those stickers
off as valid postage stamps where it gets hairy.


"No dictator, no invader, can hold an imprisoned population by force of
arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for
freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot
stand." (Ambassador G'Kar, Babylon 5)