We’ve all weighed in on Orrin Hatch’s proposal to destroy the computers of copyright infringers, and the subsequent discovery of apparently unlicensed software on his website.
Lisa Rein makes the best connection bewteen them:
Okay so Wired News has a great story about how Orinn Hatch says one thing and does another with regard to respecting copyright laws. Perhaps now he will just admit that he didn’t understand how easy it is to “violate copyright” (gasp!) unknowlingly.
The problem with modern copyright law is the number of ordinary activities it regulates. When you needed a printing presses to make an infringing copy, you didn’t much fear unwitting infringement: if you ran off a stack of Mark Twain’s latest, you probably knew if you weren’t authorized. Yet when every RAM duplication is deemed a “copy”, technology puts “copiers” into every person’s hands. Copyright owners now claim rights to control derivative works, public performance, and access, not just reproduction. Copyright has begun to intrude on everyday, private activities of ordinary citizens, as well as on those of Senators. The line between lawful and unlawful no longer seems so clear; it’s too easy to stumble into copyright infringement.
Amid that copyright minefield, Hatch’s suggested “extreme remedies,” even as later “clarified”, would be explosive. Under the Hatch plan, ordinary activities would make users targets of copyright vigilantism; Copyright becomes a force of destruction, not creativity and innovation. Instead of blowing up computers, let’s make copyright law conform better to public expectations, a real “engine of free expression.”