Piracy. Stealing. Copyright & Drunk Driving. Consequences.

Eric pointed me to the article in Tuesday's Washington Post about Utah Senator Orrin Hatch's testimonial in favor of “new technology to remotely destroy the computers of people who illegally download music from the Internet.”

Needless to say, this is a classic Hatchism designed to roust the rabble rousers, incite controversy and give the good senator more visibility amongst the haven of controversy. And while Hatch may hardly be a harbinger consumer rights, let alone copyrights, he is quite effective in drawing attention to problems in search of solutions. I don't think Hatch as serious about his solution than he was about drawing attention to the problem. In fact, yesterday he clarified those remarks further here. Yet one blogger has nominated Sir Hatch as Douchebag of the Year [permalink wasn't working at time of post] for his comments. And this blogger thinks Hatch himself is in violation of copyright law by using unlicensed software on the Hatch website.

[…] “If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we'd be interested in hearing about that,” Hatch said. “If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize” the seriousness of their actions, he said. […] “There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws,” Hatch said. […] Sen. Patrick Leahy, the committee's senior Democrat, later said the problem is serious but called Hatch's idea too drastic a remedy to be considered. […] “The rights of copyright holders need to be protected, but some Draconian remedies that have been suggested would create more problems than they would solve,” Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. “We need to work together to find the right answers, and this is not one of them.” […]

While I hardly agree with Hatch's proposal, I do find the blatant ripping off of artists' material a breach of moral ethics. If artists have granted a license ala Creative Commons than so be it. Give the shit or art away. Any way. And every way. Just because something can be copied and distributed with little effort doesn't mean that we should be able to do such things. That's why I'm such a fan of Apple's iTunes Music Store. While the solution may not be perfect (where are the indie artists?) but it's a damn good start.

What I'm not in favor of is idiotic draconian measures to stop the massive ripping and cheating of artists. Think about it. What we need is the greatest motivator of all — fear. But fear of your computer blowing up in the middle of the night is not what I'm talking about. Look what random check points did to drunk driving in the 80's and 90's. Thanks to a thriving group of Mad Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the awareness of drinking while driving hit incredible highs. Thanks to these and many other efforts deaths related to drunk driving are a fraction of what they were 20 or 30 years ago.

Granted, drinking and dying are a lot different than stealing music. But if you think about it, there was a time in this country that people didn't think twice about driving around with a beer in their hand as much as you see people slamming Diet Coke's while driving. Today, there'd be massive upheaval if you tried to get into a car with a beer in your hand.

Point is, it's too easy to copy and distribute music. And there are no consequences. There need to be consequences. To be sure, my comments are in support of the big record companies. No way. You can it seeing a bit of consequential action itself from its nasty habit of price-fixing.

For those who favor reward rather than punishment as a controller of behavior may appreciate Nikki Flemming, the matriarch of Kazaa which has the distinction of being the second generation Napster, and the notoriety of the largest peer-to-peer (ie. file sharing) network in the free world. Flemming wants to the official online distributor for the entertainment industry. Like Steve Jobs, Flemming believes that if you just make it easy for customers to access, try and ultimate purchase digital content, they won't steal.

[…] “Kazaa wants to put more and more titles on its digitally protected service so that over time, unprotected files get crowded out,” the Post reports. “When users search for a particular title or artist, Kazaa produces a list with priority given to protected, for-pay files, which are marked with an icon. Even if the public willingly migrates to paying for music in this fashion, so much is available for free that few expect it to happen quickly” […]

Now. If that doesn't sound like a designated driver concept, I'm not sure there is a better solution.

Other interesting takes on the topic: Volokh | Instapundit | just for good reading go here

photo: crowd cheering straight-talk presidential candidate John McCain in Los Angeles, March 2000.

Tagged as: