Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Crime and Punishment: Orrin Hatch's A-Bomb against online piracy

According to Ted Bridis of the AP,

Illegally download copyright music from the Internet once, or even twice, and you get a warning. Do it a third time, and your computer gets destroyed.

That's the suggestion made by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Tuesday hearing on copyright abuse, reflecting a growing frustration in Congress over failure of the technology and entertainment industries to protect copyrights in a digital age.

The surprise statement by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that he favors developing technology to remotely destroy computers used for illegal downloads represents a dramatic escalation in the increasingly contentious rhetoric over pirated music.

During a discussion of methods to frustrate computer users who illegally exchange music and movie files over the Internet, Hatch asked technology executives about ways to damage computers involved in such file trading. Legal experts have said any such attack would violate federal anti-hacking laws.
Protecting the property rights of intellectual property creators ought to be top priority in Washington. But frankly, has Hatch lost his mind? Does the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee remember the concept of due process under the law? I wonder.

UPDATE: Hatch is now attempting to back away from his statement (Thanks Instapundit). In a press release on his web site, Hatch claims
“I am very concerned about Internet piracy of personal and copyrighted materials, and I want to find effective solutions to these problems.

“I made my comments at yesterday’s hearing because I think that industry is not doing enough to help us find effective ways to stop people from using computers to steal copyrighted, personal or sensitive materials. I do not favor extreme remedies – unless no moderate remedies can be found. I asked the interested industries to help us find those moderate remedies.”
Hatch's statement is not really a retraction, but a blame shift. As a legislator, its Hatch's job to write constitutional laws that provide appropriate penalties against those who violate the property rights of others. That's it. Beyond that, he should keep his free advice to himself.

And in one last dig, if Hatch is so concerned about property rights, why does he continue to support the antitrust laws? Maybe if there were treble damages for IP pirates instead of successful businessmen, there would be less piracy and more successful businesses.

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