I’m sorry. I’ve been good the past few days and I haven’t gone off on Senator Hatch like I should… but the more I read about this moron, the more I have to. If you haven’t been following the news, the genius senator Hatch from Utah described, in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, a new and exciting way to stopping internet downloaders… by destroying their computers. I shall now quote the Washington Post:

“No one is interested in destroying anyone’s computer,” replied Randy Saaf of MediaDefender Inc., a secretive Los Angeles company that builds technology to disrupt music downloads. One technique deliberately downloads pirated material very slowly so other users can’t.

“I’m interested,” Hatch interrupted. He said damaging someone’s computer “may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights.”

Now, I’d put money on the fact that Senator Hatch has trouble checking email on a daily basis, if he does it at all. More than likely some intern does it for him and he doesn’t even touch a computer. I can’t physically understand where these people come up with this shit. Is it pressure for the right? Pressure from the music and recording industries? Payoffs from someone? I don’t get it.

No one in that circle realizes the lack of control they actually have. A few weeks ago Kazza past the old record and became the most downloaded program in history. Not of the month, or the year, but over the entire duration of the internet, no other program has been downloaded 4 million times. That’s 4 million people world wide that disagree with the basic policies of these people. It was my understanding that senators are there to represent the people from the states they came from. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that more people from Utah disagree with Hatch’s extreme measures than support it. In fact, someone must have complained because he wrote a very vague retraction yesterday that didn’t really retract anything… I quote:

“Washington – Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today issued the following statement:

“I am very concerned about Internet piracy of personal and copyrighted materials, and I want to find effective solutions to these problems.

“I made my comments at yesterday’s hearing because I think 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. I do not favor extreme remedies – unless no moderate remedies can be found. I asked the interested industries to help us find those moderate remedies.”

So, he didn’t really retract anything, just tried to justify it with vague references to “personal material”. Prof Edward W. Felten, from Freedom to Tinker, says it best:

“If the mainstream press is paying attention, they ought to find this alarming, since much of what they do involves collecting and publishing information that some people would prefer to call “personal or sensitive”. If “extreme remedies” for copyright infringement are a bad idea, “extreme remedies” for making truthful statements about other people are even worse.”

Chip and I were actually talking about this over lunch yesterday. I don’t know how everyone else feels about this but to me it’s pretty upsetting. At the moment the internet community is holding a silent truce with media companies. We’re ignoring them and they, for the most part, haven’t struck out at us with any great force. People have been sued here and there but I’m sure that was only to test the waters. What if, worst case scenario, the media companies get the right to destroy your computer for downloading some MP3s? Exactly how long would you expect the internet to stand for that shit. We’re a nameless, faceless, unruly mob and we don’t take that kind of crap lightly. I’m not talking DOS attacks anymore either. I mean a black out. If users started going down like flies and the attack was on, I could unequivocally tell you that the RIAA, MPAA and all their support companies (MediaDefender, various “research” groups, etc) would be handled silently and swiftly and they would be dead before it began. I can’t even imagine ISPs standing for the kinds of attacks that people like Hatch propose. That would generate traffic on an astronomical scale and no ISP in their right mind would want that. The media companies would have to become their own ISPs and if they did it would make it even easier to take them down.

The problem with them is that they have the analogy backward. They’re the ones with the problem, they have the compromising position, they would be the ones in trouble.

As much as we love going to movies and buying CDs, we don’t need either of them to survive. Notice I didn’t say “music” because music is something intangible and can’t be owned and bottled by anyone. They merely distribute. If we do away with them we still have the music. And that’s what they don’t want you to know. I digress.

It’s seriously a war they can’t win. It would be like the Swiss declaring war on the US. Sure, they’re good at clocks and chocolate, but they just don’t have the man-power for this one. There are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of “soldiers” across the internet that would take it upon themselves to wage war against the media companies if provoked. The media companies, for all their money and power, could never mount an army that large. They would have to employ the entire state of California to even make the playing field even. All it takes, and I hate to admit it, is one 14 year old who knows what he’s doing to bring a media empire to it’s knees. Imagine what would happen with an army of properly armed and motivated hackers.

This is of course, all hypothetical, that insane law won’t be passed because no government insurance company in their right mind would back something with the potential for mass amounts of collateral damage like that. What if an innocent persons computer got targeted for extermination? The shit storm that would create would be unimaginable.

I guess I still don’t understand their mentality. They, and I use “they” as a ubiquitous word to mean anyone with this idea, want to turn technology into a closed product. They want to sell us toasters and not computers. We don’t need to know how a toaster works, it just does, and we’re happy that it toasts bread products for us. That’s what they want to do with the computer. They want to DRM the thing up the wazoo, wrap it in a pretty package and feed it back to consumers who don’t care how it works, just that it does. They don’t want anyone to discuss, understand or tinker with things because their fragile system might come crashing down around them once we realize how completely broken the system is.

I know this all sounds pretentious and preachy, and I’m trying not to be. But it just doesn’t make any sense. Why would you want to turn such a promising industry such as computers, into a toaster of sorts, cut people off from one of the life bloods of culture (music) and cripple their amount of news by regulating everything regarding transmission of information? This time hasn’t come, but who knows what the future brings. Maybe I’ll be raising my kids in a world without the internet as I knew it. Without the free flow of ideas and information. That’s a sad world and not the one I want for my children.

Regulators, mount up.

UPDATE: Wired News Article – Hatch, the software pirate. Oh, the sweet, sweet irony.