• United States
by Ann Harrison

Crusading senator may have been a pirate too

Jul 01, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Sen. Orrin Hatch could have been fair game for a cyberattack

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who announced last month that copyright holders should be allowed to remotely destroy the computers of those accused of file trading, is apparently violating copyright law on his own Web site.

Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has proposed legislation that would allow for the destruction of computers used to download files from P2P networks. Hatch said in a statement 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.”

Hatch has taken a special interest in copyright legislation because he is himself an amateur songwriter. But his proposed legislation is even more extreme than last year’s bill introduced by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) that would have permitted copyright holders to disable or block a computer that served as a node on a P2P system.

Hatch noted that in order to target the computers of P2P users for destruction, Congress would have to pass legislation amending laws that restrict computer attacks. In particular, it would have to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal computer crime statute.

At a hearing convened by Hatch to discuss the “national security risks” of P2P networks, he asked a witness if it was possible to destroy the PCs of file-traders. “Can you destroy their set in their home?” he asked a witness. A representative from the company MediaDefender, which works with the entertainment industry to undermine P2P networks, told Hatch that nobody was interested in destroying computers to stop file trading.

 “I’m interested in doing that,” Hatch replied. “That may be the only way you can teach someone about copyright…If it’s the only way you can do it, then I’m all for destroying their machines.”

If his proposed legislation passes, Hatch himself might be a fair target for a cyberattack. A sharp-eyed observer, Laurence Simon of Houston, noticed that the menu on the Senator’s Web site uses JavaScript code created by U.K. company Milonic Solutions.

Milonic Solutions charges developers about $35 and corporate users about $900 for the right to obtain a license number for its JavaScript menu. Nonprofits can access the code for free as long as they obtain a license number, but Hatch’s site does not include a license number. Simon also noted that Hatch’s site also lacks a link to the software’s home page as required in the licensing agreement.

Being a good public citizen, Simon sent a message to Milonic pointing out that while Hatch opined that threatening to damage a person’s PC was “the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights,” Hatch himself was not displaying a license number. Simon asked Milonic whether Hatch, or any member of his staff, had sent Milonic a notice that Hatch is using the company’s menu system code on his Web site.

“And to be fair,” wrote Simon, “(since violators under Hatch’s scheme get two friendly warnings before having their computers smoked), I have also sent a note to Orrin Hatch/his Web support staff requesting confirmation that his use of the menu software is legit.”

Simon noted that this inquiry generated an automated response from Hatch’s office informing him that the senator was not able to respond personally if Simon was not a Utah resident.

Simon put out a call for a Utah resident to follow up on this issue and to keep everyone posted. The unauthorized use of copyrighted material is rampant around the world. If it were revealed that Sen. Orrin ‘Torch Your Machine’ Hatch was indeed guilty of using unlicensed software, it wouldn’t be the first time that some crusader was revealed to be a hypocrite – and in this case a terrific target for a shoot back cyberwar of his own making.

** Breaking news: Milonic has posted a notice on its Web site saying that “there are no longer any licensing issues ” regarding Hatch’s site. It says it has received “many e-mails” regarding the implementation of its software and that it has decided to begin charging government and political Web sites a license to use its product because of the “administrative overheads” involved in issuing free licenses. It is reported that the third party provider responsible for developing Hatch’s site has since purchased a license for the software.