You're Bad. I Blow Your Computer Up.

Wednesday, June 18 2003

Orin Hatch wants to blow up your computer

. With bombs.

I’m going to attempt to recreate the general thoughts behind why Orin wants to do this in few different ways, and then I’m going to do my utter best to trash the idea until I sound like a fanatic. It’s mighty presumptious of me to do this, but the man has asked for it.

The I’m With Stupid Theory

“The industry doesn’t like this whole being able to download music thing, so it’s my duty as a sworn civil servant to protect the RIAA, because they know exactly what the customer wants. I will create a bomb that punishes citizens for bad behavior. No need for the judicial system here, this is the wild untamable Internet.”

The problem is, the RIAA doesn’t have a clue what the customer really wants. They stick to the ways they’ve always done things because they’re deathly afraid of losing grip of something they shouldn’t have so much control over in the first place.

End of Strife and Suffering Theory

“Downloading music from the Internet is bleeding the RIAA dry. As a sworn civil servant, I must protect the industry. I will create a bomb, etc.”

Record sales have continued to climb despite the millions of people downloading songs without paying for them. Would it be any different if file trading never happened? Who can say, but the point is, the RIAA isn’t hurting by any means. Sure there’s an argument that if there were no file trading they might be making more money, but that’s not the point here. The point is, I’ve made up some stuff that Orin Hatch might have thought, and then critisized him for what I made him think.

Uncontrolled File Trading is Bad Theory

“There’s no accounting for all of this trading. The industry can’t get a handle for what their customers like because it’s untamed. There’s no control. So I shall build a bomb, etc.”

If you have no affilliation with the RIAA, and you’re an independent musician, uncontrolled file trading can create a windfall of opportunity. I’m convinced that some of the savvier PR companies affiliated with the RIAA actually dump a few singles of the artists that they also have showing up on variety shows to help promote album sales. It is a good tool for that. It’s radio on demand in a sense, without the ads (which I’d venture to guess the PR companies wouldn’t mind losing).

The most disturbing thing from Orin’s new viewpoint is that he’s suggesting creating some kind of mechanism that causes destruction of data and possible damages hardware. Hackers go to jail for this kind of thing, and often serve more time than rapists and murderers.

Also disturbing – what about the judicial system? Why would the government, or scarier still, the RIAA, be able to break hacking type laws to deal out punishment to people who at worst download something that ultimately serves to support the very industry that is freaked out by the action in the first place?

It sounds like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but for a politician to be able to suggest that punishment can be dealt automatically for a crime, circumventing all checks and balances in the judicial system, scares me. Taken to an extreme, if you could automatically deal out capital punishment for murder, wouldn’t that be scary?