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News ::
Downloaders would get fried computer (english)
19 Jun 2003
Utah senator Orrin Hatch is willing to remotely destroy the computers of illegal music downloaders in an attempt to "teach somebody about copyrights"


Downloaders would get fried computer
Jeremiah Horrigan, Middleton Times Herald-Record, NY, June 19, 2003

Three centuries ago, Jonathan Swift suggested that the problem of Irish poverty could be easily solved by eating Irish babies. Swift, a satirist, was kidding.

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch suggested that the problem of illegally downloading copyrighted material from the Internet could be easily solved by remotely "destroying" the computers of people who did so. Hatch, a Republican senator from Utah, wasn't kidding.

Remotely damaging someone's computer "may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights," Hatch told technology experts testifying Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.

"If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we'd be interested in hearing about that," Hatch said. "If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines. ... There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws." Violators would be given two electronic warnings. If they took a third swing, their hardware would be out for good.

In addition to his political achievements, Hatch is a songwriter of sufficient ability to have earned $18,000 in royalties last year. He did not reveal if any of his patriotic soft-rock ballads (Anyone download "America Rocks" lately?) had been pilfered by copyright cyber-criminals.

Yesterday, Hatch backed off his comments somewhat, saying that he doesn't think the industry is doing enough to prevent people from stealing copyrighted material off the Internet. "I do not favor extreme remedies unless no moderate remedies can be found," Hatch said.

Proposals like Hatch's come down to control, political scientist Lewis Brownstein said yesterday. It's an attempt to put the technological genie back in the bottle. Brownstein, chairman of SUNY New Paltz's political science department, said he was mildly surprised at Hatch's remarks, since the Utah senator has sometimes shown libertarian political tendencies.

"I think it shows the level of distress among people of his political persuasion when they're confronted by elements outside their control," he said. Brownstein agrees that artists should be paid for their work, but noted there's a "disconnect" between artists and the corporations that essentially own the artists' work. "That's who's pushing for this sort of thing," he said.

While Hatch's statements are not a "real threat," the freedom afforded by the Internet will continue to attract critics uncomfortable with or threatened by public access to information that's never been available before, Brownstein said. Computer consultant Dylan VanDetta of Black Shirt Consulting in Middletown said that while he felt Hatch's suggestion was "ridiculous," it was also surprising and dangerous.

"It sounds very odd to me to hear that a politician would fight for technology that would allow someone to be punished for something without there being any proof of a crime," he said. "To encourage development of something that would not only bypass the judicial system but could be used by anyone with malicious intent to affect an enemy's computer it's a really bad idea."

Matthew Kennedy of Washingtonville favors copyright law. He downloads and pays 99 cents each for only the songs he likes. That amounts to a lot less than he would pay for a compact disc where someone else picked the songs. But the 19-year-old music fan thinks Hatch's three-strikes-and-you're-out idea is way off base. "Two wrongs don't make a right. If anything, that will just cause more problems."

Greg Bekiaris said the high cost of authorized music is driving music lovers to the Internet. "If I download a song, it's to get a taste of the rest of the album," the 23-year-old Central Valley resident said. "I'm not spending $20 on a CD when I'm only going to like two songs."

The Associated Press and staff writer Sandy Tomcho contributed to this report.
See also:
http://www.recordonline.com/archive/2003/06/19/jhbigbro.htm
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