Oracle fighting WMD

Wednesday 19 November 2003

I downloaded some software from Oracle yesterday, and got to the Eligibility Export Restrictions page. It had five checkboxes for me to assuage their fears that I might use their software for some nefarious purpose. The first four were kind of expected. They asserted that I was not from a bad-guy country, that I wouldn't send the software to a bad-guy country, that I wasn't considered a bad guy by the Department of the Treasury, and that I wouldn't share the software with anyone who was. But the fifth checkbox stood out:

I will not use the Programs for, and will not allow the Programs to be used for, any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, for the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction.

What exactly is the theory of this checkbox? Are North Koreans shopping the web for database software, and trying to download Oracle, and being stymied by this paragraph? Is the act of untruthfully checking this box the last straw in their back-breaking moral load? Does it cause them to pause and reconsider? I mean really, do we really think this is somehow preventing people from building weapons of mass destruction?

I can see it now: some depraved terrorist manages to build and deploy a horrific weapon of mass destruction. Somehow, he's been identified and his methods uncovered, but he's discovered a loophole in the justice system, and is going to go scot free. The day is saved by the ever vigilant Oracle legal team, who successfully prosecute him for violating the terms of his software download!

Comments

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Ben Poole 7:41 AM on 19 Nov 2003

LOL! I liken this kind of thing to the form we foreigners have to fill in when entering the USA.

The declarations one has to make are priceless, particularly the checkbox affirming that the entrant has not committed acts of genocide, terrorism etc.

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patriot 11:43 AM on 19 Nov 2003

it probably has more to do with some provision of the patriot act or some other onerous law that says if they allow someone to make a wmd with their software, every employee of the corporation will be considered an enemy combatant.

i prefer your guess.

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Bob 7:56 PM on 19 Nov 2003

That ranks up there with Microsoft's EULA (End-User License Agreement) for Windows when it included Java support:

The software product may contain support for programs written in Java. Java technology is not fault tolerant and is not designed, manufactured, or intended for use or resale as on-line control equipment in hazardous environments requiring fail-safe performance, such as in the operation of nuclear facilities, aircraft navigation or communication systems, air traffic control, direct life support machines, or weapons systems, in which the failure of Java technology could lead directly to death, personal injury, or severe physical or environmental damage.

Since weapons systems are included, I guess if Oracle had used Microsoft Java technology they wouldn't need to include this checkbox ;-)

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Sylvain Galineau 4:53 PM on 20 Nov 2003

There is a term for legal deniability that eludes me. Effectively, provided Oracle archives the data, they can argue they sold/provided the software in good faith. This doesn't reflect so badly on Oracle as it does on the Department Of Homeland Security and the shifting laws of the land that induce such ridiculous clauses.

The INS forms mentioned above by Ben also have a purpose. These forms are simply signed statements. Should the customs officer identify you, or prove that part of your statement is in fact incorrect, this signed statement alone is sufficient to refuse you entry. No appeal. You turn around and go home. And should it be determined that you lied after you have been allowed in, that is also enough to deport you. In effect, your being allowed to enter and stay in the US depends on your stating who you say you are truthfully. If you don't, the authorities can kick you out. The point of this is only to streamline the process.

Given the alternatives - hundreds of would-be immigrants stuck in hotel airports at taxpayer's expense in France, for instance - it ain't so bad, even if it looks silly.

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