• United States

Sen. Hatch and the record industry’s jihad

Jun 23, 20033 mins
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“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 [Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah], of the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Tuesday hearing on copyright abuse.” The San Jose Mercury News, June 18, 2003

I was going to write this column as an ethically persuasive letter to Hatch about his thoughts (for want of a better word) on how to reduce copyright infringement, but the more I thought about it the clearer it became that I would be wasting my time.

The point of such a letter would have been to present an organized, cogent argument intended to get him to reconsider his position by explaining the facts. I now realize that would be pointless.

You see, the senator’s position is (how can I put this nicely?) completely ignorant. It also is unethical, impractical and a breach of trust, and smacks of a politician sucking up to a rich and powerful lobby.

Yes folks, unless there is something that we don’t know – such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) mafia made him say those things under the threat of torture – it looks a lot like Hatch is about as deep a thinker as, say, Mr. Ed. Either that or the senator has simply lost his mind.

Last week at the judiciary hearing on copyright issues, Randy Saaf, CEO of MediaDefender, (described as “a secretive Los Angeles company” that has some technology to detect and slow the transfer of pirated music) commented that “No one is interested in destroying anyone’s computer.”

Hatch immediately interjected: “I’m interested!” and went on to say that damaging someone’s computer “may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights.”

According to the Mercury News, Hatch rampaged on: “If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we’d be interested in hearing about that, [but if] that’s the only way then I’m all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred thousand of those, people would realize [the seriousness of their actions].”

Wow. This is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee? Talk about uninformed and short-sighted. What happens when the copyright police make a mistake and toast the wrong person’s system? And who will be the copyright police? And . . . well, I could rant on, but you get the idea.

But what next? After that it will be a short road to, “If we catch you listening to pirated music, we’ll cut your ears off” and “If you break the speed limit we’ll rip your wheels off.”

This sounds rather like the kind of justice meted out in places like Iran and Iraq. Wait, maybe Hatch is on some kind of jihad with the RIAAistas! That’s it, Hatch is a terrorist!

Folks, something needs to be done. When we have the chairman of the judiciary committee (no less) behaving like a raving lunatic over an issue that pales compared with this country’s more pressing issues, such as resolving the aftermath of the Iraq war and dealing with poverty and healthcare in the U.S., something is very wrong.

You might think Hatch is grandstanding or being negligent, irresponsible, foolish or, as I implied, deranged. Whatever you think the reason is, write him  and tell him.

Yet more outrage to


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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