RFC3751: Omniscience Protocol Requirements

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Network Working Group                                         S. Bradner
Request for Comments: 3751                                    Harvard U.
Category: Informational                                     1 April 2004

                   Omniscience Protocol Requirements

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  All Rights Reserved.


   There have been a number of legislative initiatives in the U.S. and
   elsewhere over the past few years to use the Internet to actively
   interfere with allegedly illegal activities of Internet users.  This
   memo proposes a number of requirements for a new protocol, the
   Omniscience Protocol, that could be used to enable such efforts.

1.  Introduction

   In a June 17, 2003 U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, entitled
   "The Dark Side of a Bright Idea: Could Personal and National Security
   Risks Compromise the Potential of Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing
   Networks?," U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chair of the
   committee, said he was interested in the ability to destroy the
   computers of people who illegally download copyrighted material.  He
   said this "may be the only way you can teach somebody about
   copyrights."  "If we can find some way to do this without destroying
   their machines, we'd be interested in hearing about that," Mr Hatch
   was quoted as saying during a Senate hearing.  He went on to say "If
   that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines."

   Mr. Hatch was not the first U.S. elected official to propose
   something along this line.  A year earlier, representatives, Howard
   Berman (D-Calif.) and Howard Coble (R-N.C.), introduced a bill that
   would have immunized groups such as the Motion Picture Association of
   America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America
   (RIAA) from all state and federal laws if they disable, block, or
   otherwise impair a "publicly accessible peer-to-peer file-trading

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   The attitude of some of the copyright holders may be that it's OK for
   a few honest people to have their computers or networks executed as
   long as the machines and networks of the dishonest are killed.  But
   it is not likely that any measurable error rate would be acceptable
   to the public.  Clearly, anyone implementing laws of this type need
   some way to reduce the error rate and be sure that they are dealing
   with a real bad guy and not an innocent bystander.

   Part of determining if someone is a "bad guy" is determining his or
   her intent.  Historically, western jurisprudence has required that
   prosecutors show that a person intended to commit a crime before that
   person could be convicted of committing that crime.  [Holdsworth,
   Restatement, Prosser, United States v. Wise, Garratt v. Dailey]
   Because it can be quite difficult to establish a person's intent
   lawmakers have, in some cases, reduced the requirement for
   prosecutors to establish intent and mere possession is now proof
   enough of intent.

   This memo proposes a set of requirements for a new protocol to be
   used by prosecutors to determine a person's intent, thus reducing the
   need to dilute the historical legal requirement to show intent and by
   groups such as the MPAA and RIAA to be sure they are dealing with
   lawbreakers and not 60 year old non computer users.

2.  Omniscience Protocol Requirements

   For the purpose of these requirements, I will assume that the OP is
   implemented using a client-server model, where the OP client is
   installed on the user's computer and the server is installed on a
   computer run by a law or copyright enforcement organization.  OP
   Clients would register with all OP Servers that pertain to the legal
   jurisdiction in which the client is located each time the computer is
   started.  OP Servers would then, on whatever schedule they have been
   configured to use, send OP Queries to OP Clients to find out if the
   computer operator has engaged in an illegal act of interest to the
   operator of the OP Server.  Future versions of the OP might operate
   using a peer-to-peer model if the copyright enforcement people can
   ever get over their visceral disgust at the very concept of peer-to-
   peer networks.

   For the purpose of this memo, I will use copyright infringement as an
   example of an illegal act that the OP protocol could be used to
   expose.  The OP has numerous possible applications beyond ferreting
   out copyright infringement.  For example, the OP would be of great
   assistance to instructors trying to determine if their students are
   producing original work or engaging in plagiarism.  The same function
   would be invaluable to newspaper editors checking up on reporter's

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   Also for the purpose of this memo, I assume that an evil-doer (also
   referred to as a miscreant) is in full control of a computer and that
   OP Servers will generally be operated by "Good guys."  (See
   Functional Requirements FR5-7 for requirements to ensure that the
   latter is the case.)  In the context of this memo, "evil-doer" and
   "miscreant" are defined as individuals or groups of individuals who
   perform acts that the operator of an OP Server has a legally
   recognized right to prevent.  In the context of this memo, "good
   guys" refers to individuals or groups of individuals who have a
   legally recognized right to prevent certain acts that computer users
   may attempt to do with their computers.  The use of this term is not
   meant to convey any value judgment of the morality, forward thinking
   nature, public spiritedness, or the monetary worth relative to most
   of humanity of such individuals or groups of individuals.

2.1.  Operational Requirements

   OR1: The OP client must be able to install itself into all types of
        computers over the objections of the computer user.

        Discussion: The OP client would be installed by legal mandate in
        all new computers, but since there are hundreds of millions of
        existing computers, the OP client must be able to install itself
        in all of these existing computers in order to afford universal
        coverage of all possible miscreants.  This installation must be
        accomplished even if the user, many of whom have full
        administrative control over their computers, tries to prevent

   OR2: True OP clients must not be findable by the computer user by any
        means, including commercial virus detectors, but all hackers'
        programs that mimic OP clients must be easily findable by
        commercial virus detectors.

        Discussion: Since anyone whose intent was to violate the law
        would not want the OP client to be watching their action, they
        would try to disable the OP client.  Thus the OP Client, once
        installed, should be invisible to all methods a user might
        employ to discover it.  Users must be able to find and remove
        any virus or worm that tries to masquerade as an OP client to
        escape detection.

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   OR3: The OP must be able to communicate through uncooperative
        firewalls, NATs, and when the computer is disconnected from the

        Discussion: Since the evil-doer may have control of a local
        firewall or NAT, the OP must be able to communicate with the OP
        server, even when the firewall or NAT has been configured to
        block all unused ports.  Also, since the evil-doer might try to
        hide his or her evil-doing by disconnecting the computer from
        the network, the OP must be able to continue to communicate,
        even under these circumstances.  Meeting this requirement may
        require that the OP client be able to reconfigure the user's
        machine into a cell phone or to implement GMPLS-WH [GMPLS-WH].

   OR4: Neither the operation of the OP client or the OP server must be
        able to be spoofed.

        Discussion: The user must not be able to create their own
        version of an OP client that can fool the OP server.  Nor can it
        be possible for someone to create their own OP server that can
        be used to query OP clients.

        Discussion: Because of the potential for a user to hide their
        illicit activities by mimicking the operation of the OP client
        on their machine, it must not be possible to do so.  In the same
        vein, because of the potential for violating the user's privacy,
        it must not be possible for a non-authorized OP server to be
        seen as authorized by OP clients.  Since there will be an
        arbitrary, and changing, number of OP servers, at least one for
        each type of protected material, OP authentication and
        authorization must be able to be accomplished with no prior
        knowledge of a particular OP server by the OP client.

   OR5: The OP client must be able to be installed on any portable
        device that can be used to play protected material or execute
        protected software.

        Discussion:  Since small, portable devices, such as MP3 players,
        are becoming the preferred method of playing back prerecorded
        music and videos, they must all include OP clients.  OP clients
        must be able to be automatically installed on all such existing

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2.2.  Functional Requirements

   FR1: The OP client must be able to determine the user's intent.

        Discussion: Just knowing that the user has a copy of a protected
        work on their system does not, by itself, mean that the copy is
        illegal.  It could easily be a copy that the user purchased.
        The OP must be able to tell if a copy is an illegal copy with
        complete reliability.  The OP must be able to differentiate
        between an original, and legal, copy and a bit-for-bit illegal
        reproduction.  The OP client must be able to differentiate
        between copies that were created for the purpose of backup, and
        are thus generally legal, and those copies created for the
        purpose of illegal distribution.  In the case of some types of
        software, the OP client must be able to determine the intent of
        the user for the software.  An example of this need is related
        to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and similar
        laws around the world.  These laws outlaw the possession of
        circumvention technology, such as crypto analysis software, in
        most cases.  Some exemption is made for legitimate researchers,
        but without an OP it is quite hard to determine if the
        circumvention technology is to be used for research or to break
        copyright protections for the purpose of making illegal copies
        of protected material.  With the OP, the DMCA, and laws like it,
        can be rewritten so that circumvention technology is legal and
        developers can find out if their security protocols are any
        good, something which may be illegal under current law.

   FR2: The OP client must be able to remotely differentiate between
        illegal material and other material with the same file name.

        Discussion: A user might create a file that has the same
        filename as that of a protected work.  The OP must not be fooled
        into thinking that the user's file is a protected one.

   FR3: The OP client must be able to find illegal copies, even if the
        filename has been changed.

        Discussion: The user must not be able to disguise a protected
        work by just changing its name.

   FR4: The OP client must be able to find illegal copies, even if the
        user has modified the work in some way.

        Discussion: The user must not be able to disguise a protected
        work by modifying the work, for example, by prepending,
        appending, or inserting extra material, or by changing some of
        the protected work.  The OP must be able to make a legal

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        determination that a modified work is no longer legally the same
        as the original if the amount and type of modification exceed a
        subjective threshold.

   FR5: The OP client must not be able to be run by a hacker, and the OP
        interface into a user's computer must not be able to be
        exploited by a hacker.

        Discussion: OP clients will be attractive targets for hackers
        since they will have full access within a user's computer.  The
        interface between the OP client and server must be secure
        against all possible hacking attacks.

   FR6: The OP client must be able to discern the motives of the
        operator of the OP server and not run if those motives are not

        Discussion: Since it cannot be assumed that the operators of the
        OP server will always have the best motives, the OP client must
        be able to reject requests from the OP server if the operator of
        the server has an evil (or illegal) intent.  For example, the OP
        client must block any operation that might stem from a vendetta
        that the OP server operator might have against the user.

   FR7: The OP client must not be able to be used to extract information
        from a user's computer that is unrelated to illegal copies.

        In order to minimize the threat to the privacy of the user, the
        OP client must not be able to be used to extract information
        from the user's computer that is not germane to determining if
        the user has illegal copies of works or intends to use protected
        works in illegal ways.

   FR8: The OP client must be able to differentiate between protected
        material that was placed on the user's computer by the user and
        any material placed by others.

        Discussion: It must not be possible for a third party to put
        protected material on a user's computer for the purpose of
        incriminating the user.  The OP client must be able to know,
        with certainty, who placed material on each computer, even in
        the cases where a third party has physical access to an
        unprotected computer or when the third party knows the user's
        logname and password.

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   FR9: The OP client must only implement the laws that apply to the
        specific computer that it is running on.

        Discussion: Since the Internet crosses many legal boundaries, an
        OP client will have to know just where, in geo-political space,
        the computer it is running in is currently located in order to
        know what set of laws to apply when it is scanning the user's
        computer.  The OP client must also be able to be automatically
        updated if the laws change or the computer is moved to a
        location where the laws are different.  Note that this
        requirement also implies that the OP client knows where its OP
        server is located to know if the client and server are both in
        the same legal jurisdiction.  The OP client must know what to
        do, or not do, when they are not in the same legal jurisdiction.
        The OP client must also include a mechanism to automatically
        retrieve any applicable new laws or court decisions and properly
        interpret them.

3.  Security Considerations

   The OP requires strong authentication of the clients and servers to
   ensure that they cannot be spoofed.  It also requires the use of
   strong integrity technology to ensure that the messages between the
   client and server cannot be modified in flight.  It also requires
   strong encryption to be sure that the communication between the
   client and the server cannot be observed.  All of this is required in
   an environment where many of the users are in full control of their
   computers and will be actively hostile to the reliable operation of
   the protocol.  Good luck.

4.  Informative References

   [Garratt v. Dailey]     Supreme Court of Washington, 6 Wash. 2d 197;
                           279 P.2d 1091 (1955)

   [GMPLS-WH]              Generalized Multi-Protocol Label Switching
                           (GMPLS) for Worm Holes, work to be in process

   [Guardian]              "Senator proposes destruction of file-
                           swapping computers."  The Guardian, June 19,
                           2003.  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/

   [Holdsworth]            Holdsworth, W., History of English Law
                           680-683 (1938)

   [Processer]             Prosser, W., et al., "Prosser and Keeton on
                           Torts," Hornbook Series, 5th ed., 1984

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   [Restatement]           1. Restatement of the Law: sec 13 Torts
                           (American Law Institute) (1934)

   [United States v. Wise] 550 F.2d 1180, 1194 (9th Cir.)

5.  Authors Address

   Scott Bradner
   Harvard University
   29 Oxford St.
   Cambridge MA, 02138

   EMail: sob@harvard.edu
   Phone: +1 617 495 3864

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6.  Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  This document is subject
   to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP 78 and
   except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

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