pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Jun 18 20:36:32 EDT 2003

Subject:   Vigilantism

(from Edupage, June 18, 2003)

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) shocked lawmakers and other observers at a
Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on copyright protection this week
when he expressed support for developing technologies that would
damage the computers of people trading copyrighted material. If
habitual violators of copyright cannot be persuaded to stop or
prevented from violating the law any other way, "then I'm all for
destroying their machines," said Hatch. For such an approach to
work, Congress would have to approve an exemption to anti-hacking
laws for copyright holders. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking
Democrat on the committee, conceded the need to find workable
solutions to digital copyright violations but said, "this is not one
of them." Other observers suggested that the exemption for copyright
holders would be very unlikely to pass Congress.
Washington Post, 17 June 2003

This has been widely reported, so you've probably seen it. Do
consider that the theme is vigilantism. It's an idea whose appeal is
quite basic to the American psyche, as an antidote to growing
feelings of helplessness. But it's not a pretty idea, and one
shunned by most societies working hard on being part of a
multilateral world. 

The security guru Bruce Schneier commented on vigilantism in a Dec.
2002 lead editorial which my colleague Alfred Ganz brought to my
attention: <http://www.counterpane.com/crypto-gram-0212.html>

Even worse would be bringing another theme of our times into the
computer network environment: preemptive strikes.


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