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June 18, 2003

Cold Day in Hell...

Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) suggested today that he believes that anyone downloading music from the Internet should have their computers "destroyed." Excuse me? Destroyed? I don't think so.

Hatch is not suggesting that someone show up at a person's door with a hammer after a person has been tried and found guilty. According to the article, a downloader would be warned twice and then, after the third time, their computers would be destroyed. He is advocating that someone create a piece of software that could be launched against a particular persons computer to actually take it down. Currently, this type of activity is forbidden under anti-hacking laws, but he favors creating a loophole that would exempt copyright holders from the laws. Aside from the legal implications of this, the other major thing that sticks out in this is that Hatch is a member of the music industry. Last year, he made $18,000 in royalties for songs that he wrote.

This concerns me on multiple levels. First of all, that whole Constitution thing gets thrown out in this case. I am not sure which part of this bothers me more. The right to a trial by a court of law. The right to confront your accuser. The whole idea of guilty until proven innocent is gone. This plan even removes the judicial system from the process entirely. If the music industry determines that you have been bad, they could access your computer and corrupt files and destroy data that is on the machine. This harkens back to the Old West, when vigilante justice was common. Any person could take the law into their own hands with little or not consequence to them.

Secondly, with the lack of due process, who would determine that actual wrongdoing has occurred? That would be the music companies themselves. Interesting. They would become the judge, jury and executioner all in one. What a pleasant thought.

Take this case... Personally, I own a lot of music. I have downloaded some of the same music that I own from the Internet. Why? Because I am too lazy to rip it or when I have ripped it I have gotten errors. According to this, I would be one of the people targeted. No one would come to my house and audit my music collection. Instead, I would get two warnings. I am sure that they will believe me when I respond that I am doing this legally. Then, one morning, I will wake up and my computer will be nonfunctional. I can already see the lawsuits flying.

The last thing that needs to be considered is that, as soon as record companies and the RIAA takes the offensive against the technology sector, I wouldn't be surprised if certain people within the technology sector strike back. The casualties of this type of escalating warfare will most certainly be bad for the music industry.

Mr. Hatch... I really think you need to reconsider this position. Throwing out the Constitution and turning over the reins of the judicial system to an organization who is hell bent on playing only by their own rules strikes me as a bad idea. And, as someone sworn to uphold the Constitution, I would think it would strike you a bad idea as well.