The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah), thinks it would be a fabulous idea if copyright owners could remotely destroy computers that contain pirated material, the Associated Press reports.
"I'm all for destroying their machines," Hatch said during a Committee hearing Tuesday. "'If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize' the seriousness of their actions," the wire service quotes him as saying.
This would involve creating new legislation to exempt copyright owners from old-fashioned laws that make it a crime to destroy other people's property, and from somewhat newer computer trespass and misuse statutes as well.
Such legislation would be in line with US Representative Howard Berman (Democrat, California) and his vision of allowing copyright owners and their agents to hack computer systems where copyright violations might be going on. Hatch would simply take it a bit further, permitting copyright owners to take overtly malicious action.
While there may soon be an excuse for willful destruction of property, "there's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws," Hatch explained.
We can't quite picture the sort of attack our visionary Utah Senator has in mind. Obviously there is little danger of actually destroying a PC remotely; in spite of great advances in malware, it remains the sort of business for which a hatchet comes in most handy. You could wipe the HDD or re-flash the BIOS remotely, but victims can recover from this sort of thing.
Benefit of the doubt
One has to wonder how much evidence of wrongdoing a copyright owner would need before their exemption from prosecution would kick in. Would they have to maintain copious records of their investigations and findings? Or would they be granted a blanket benefit of the doubt and therefor not have to justify it at all? And what happens when an innocent person is victimized? If their HDD were wiped by some malicious program, they would have an awful time seeking a legal remedy with no data to challenge the media pigopolists' evidence.
Perhaps Hatch is imagining of some sort of Mission-Impossible-style DRM self-destruct regime, possibly one mandated by a law like the one contemplated by Senator Fritz Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina) known as the CBDTPA.
A mandatory DRM scheme of this sort could monitor the copyright status of content being accessed, and after a set number of 'violations' sabotage the PC with a Hatch attack. To further inconvenience copyright miscreants, the DRM mechanism could be tied to some sort of Win-XP-style 'product activation' discipline, possibly requiring users to purchase and install a new copy of their operating system to regain full control of their computers.
Or perhaps Congress will realize that Hatch is talking utter nonsense and ignore his bizarre suggestion. It all depends on how much money the MPAA and RIAA lobbyists can slip into the pockets of their Congressional lapdogs.
Citizens are welcome to e-mail Senator Hatch here to offer him their kind words of support. ®