Sen. Hatch would destroy downloaders’ computers

Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last week he favors developing new technology to remotely destroy the computers of people who illegally download music from the Internet.

During a discussion on methods to frustrate computer users who illegally exchange music and movie files over the Internet, the Utah Republican surprised hearing attendees when he asked technology executives about ways to damage computers involved in such file trading. Legal experts have said any such attack would violate federal anti-hacking laws.

“No one is interested in destroying anyone’s computer,” replied Randy Saaf of MediaDefender, a Los Angeles company that builds technology to disrupt music downloads.

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

Hatch acknowledged Congress would have to enact an exemption for copyright owners from liability for damaging computers. He then endorsed technology that would twice warn a computer user about illegal online behavior, “then destroy their computer.”

Ironically, an independent investigation conducted by the Amish Tech Support Web site has revealed the illegal use of copyrighted software on Hatch’s official Web site. The site uses a set of Javascript code for its menus developed by a company called Milonic Solutions.

Milonic said it has not changed the original licensing scheme for non-profit organizations, such as government Web sites. “You can still use the Web site menu free of charge but you must obtain a license number in order to do so.”

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