June 18, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Hatch's Hollywood Hacking

If an egg must crack in order to hatch, then egghead Orrin Hatch has surely cracked. The latest scheme that the senator-cum-composer has hatched would essentially legalize Hollywood hacking. Launching the latest salvo in the war against illegal online file sharing, Hatch suggested yesterday that technology should be implemented that would "destroy" the computers of those who illegally download music files and other copyrighted material. "I'm all for destroying their machines," said the senator. "If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize" the seriousness of their actions.

As a friend noted, the logic of this outlandish plan would roughly equate to a VCR that self-destructed when you played a movie that you "illegally" recorded off HBO or an automobile engine that blew up when you exceeded the speed limit. Time and again, the recording industry and Hollywood in general has tried to stop the inevitable with increasingly draconian measures. Millions of people continue to download illicit music files. Gone Napster may be, but other peer-to-peer services have stepped in to fill the void: Morpheus, Kazaa, Bearshare, to name a few. The entertainment industry will have no more success stopping this downloading than the CHP would have stopping all Californians from speeding. They may nail a poor sap here and there to set an example, but peer-to-peer file sharing—legal and illegal—is here to stay.

Hatch, the entertainment industry and others will probably continue to dream up ever more extreme enforcement measures. Perhaps Hatch will up the ante with a special mouse that delivers 40,000 volts to liquefy your eardrums if you click to download a pirated music file. But until they drag themselves kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, they'll miss out on what could be a lucrative revenue stream.

If the recording industry is really losing millions of dollars due to illegal file sharing (doubtful), then it should embrace technology that will allow it to legally sell such files at a price that users would be willing to pay (instead of spending millions on anti-circumvention technologies that don't work). Many people would likely be willing to pay 50 cents to a dollar to download a song encoded at the bit rate of their choosing. If a music publisher had a user-friendly Web site where I could quickly locate and purchase a digital copy of a song for an inexpensive price, I'd save the time that a P2P search would take and fork over 50 cents for the latest 50 Cent. (Read a friend's take on this very idea.)

Perhaps Hatch, having enjoyed some success as a musical composer, has decided to branch out into comedy. More likely, however, he's just another whack-job politician with a really dumb idea. Whichever the case may be, the preposterous suggestion of destroying the hard drives of people who illegally download music files is illustrative of the dinosaur mentality of the entertainment industry. As it has done with every technological leap (e.g. the VCR, DAT recorders, etc.), the industry has chosen to fight for the status quo in a world that left the status quo behind long ago.

Here's a free download that won't destroy your computer: a video clip of me off-roading in Joshua Tree National Park last April (14.5 MB).


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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June Columns:

6/30: Halfway There
6/27: 28 Days Later
6/26: I Am a Racist
6/24: America the Obese
6/23: Reality TV Sells
6/20: June Gloom
6/18: Hatch's Hollywood Hacking
6/16: Qualcomm Stadium
6/15: Happy Father's Day
6/14: Flag Day
6/13: Friday the 13th
6/12: Extreme
6/9: Spammed
6/8: Lack of PLANning
6/7: When Grass Attacks
6/4: Culture Shock
6/1: The Baja 500
Previous months in The Archive

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