|Music pirates should face destructive counterattacks, Hatch says
WASHINGTON (AP June 18 2003) -- 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
``No one is interested in destroying anyone's computer,'' replied Randy
Saaf of MediaDefender Inc., a secretive Los Angeles company that builds
technology to deliberately download pirated material very slowly so
other users can't.
``I'm interested,'' Hatch interrupted. He said damaging someone's
computer ``may be the only way you can teach somebody about
The senator, a composer who earned $18,000 last year in song-writing
royalties, acknowledged Congress would have to enact an exemption for
copyright owners from liability for damaging computers. He endorsed
technology that would twice warn a computer user about illegal online
behavior, ``then destroy their computer.''
``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. If you have a few
hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize'' the
seriousness of their actions.
``There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws,'' Hatch said.
Some legal experts suggested Hatch's provocative remarks were more
likely intended to compel technology and music executives to work faster
toward ways to protect copyrights online than to signal forthcoming
``It's just the frustration of those who are looking at enforcing laws
that are proving very hard to enforce,'' said Orin Kerr, a George
Washington University law professor and former Justice Department
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the committee's senior Democrat, later
said the problem is serious but called Hatch's suggestion too drastic.
``The rights of copyright holders need to be protected, but some
Draconian remedies that have been suggested would create more problems
than they would solve,'' Leahy said in a statement. ``We need to work
together to find the right answers, and this is not one of them.''
Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., urged Hatch to reconsider. Because Hatch is
Judiciary chairman, ``we all take those views very seriously,'' he said.
But Kerr said Congress was unlikely to approve any bill to enable such
remote computer destruction by copyright owners ``because innocent users
might be wrongly targeted.''
A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America, Jonathan
Lamy, said Hatch was ``apparently making a metaphorical point that if
peer-to-peer networks don't take reasonable steps to prevent massive
copyright infringement on the systems they create, Congress may be
forced to consider stronger measures.'' The RIAA represents the major
The entertainment industry has gradually escalated its fight against
Internet file-traders, targeting the most egregious pirates with civil
lawsuits. The RIAA recently won a federal court decision making it
significantly easier to identify and track consumers -- even those
hiding behind aliases -- using popular Internet file-sharing software.