Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah recently said he’s “very interested” in technology to destroy the computers of copyright infringers and it “may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights.” Current estimates of how many people in the US trade files are around 70 million. His opinion goes way beyond the scope of what companies should be allowed to do. Enforcement, prosecution, and punishing criminals is a job for the state and should not fall into private hands. If I assault someone, does someone come to my house and assault me? No, I am brought before a jury, put on trial, and sentenced in court. What if someone downloads a copyrighted work in a school library? Should the record companies be allowed to fry the school’s computer? What Hatch is proposing can not even be done without massive help from the technology industry.
As far as my own opinions on file trading and copyright infringment, I don’t think people should ever break the law, but I definitely think copyright lasts too long. It can be up to 120 YEARS, which is substantially higher than the original 14 years when the Constitution was signed. I fail to see how a 120 year monopoly on your work encourages continuing creation.
The main problem I see with copyright infringement is enforcement. Digitial communication is so immersed in modern society that checking every transmission for copyrighted works hurts us more than the benefit we get from keeping those works protected. Protection can be applied in certain areas, like commercial infringement, without burdening the average, everyday life of citizens.
Update: Turns out Hatch is a pirate himself. I removed this earlier, because I wasn’t sure if it was true, but Wired picked up the story and interviewed the author of the pirated software used on Hatch’s website.