Orrin Hatch, the songwriting senator from the great foreign country – I mean state – of Utah who recently suggested that the computers of copyright violators should be remotely sabotaged with some kind of death ray, has suddenly made an about-face and crawled out of his own ass, at least temporarily:
- The music labels may have to find another way of getting the names of suspected file-swappers than wresting them from ISPs.
Invoking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to get customer names from ISPs doesn’t even require a judge’s supervision, notes Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He suggests copyright-holders and ISPs come up with another way to protect songs and movies online.
The comment comes a day after the music industry announced lawsuits against 261 U.S. residents accused of uploading thousands of songs.
Hatch says he agrees with many of the concerns raised in a Tuesday committee hearing by William Barr, general counsel of Verizon Communications. The ISP has fought subpoenas from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as the music labels sought out copyright violations. After losing two court rulings, Verizon handed over the names of four customers accused of heavy song swapping over peer-to-peer networks.
The latitude under the DMCA is so broad, government prosecutors don’t have the same freedom to subpoena criminals that the RIAA has to subpoena suspected copyright violators, Barr told the Senate Judiciary committee. Any copyright holder can request DMCA subpoenas through a court clerk and without a hearing before a judge.
Without a judge to oversee the subpoena, nothing stops stalkers or pedophiles from claiming to be copyright-holders and getting the names of Internet users, Barr says.
“Given the sweeping nature of this power, deputizing commercially interested individuals to go out and do this kind of thing, abuses aren’t just possible, abuses are inevitable,” Barr told the committee.
After Barr’s testimony, Hatch asked for bimonthly updates over the next six months from the RIAA, Verizon, and other interested groups on whether the subpoenas are being abused and what alternatives Congress might consider. The issue has not “ripened enough” for Congress to decide whether the DMCA went too far, Hatch added.
But Hatch also said he agrees with much of Barr’s testimony.
“We need both of your ideas on how to solve this, because much of what (Barr) says I agree with,” he told RIAA and Verizon representatives. [PCWorld.com]
I am pleased to see the lawyer in Hatch shares at least some real estate in his brain with the vindictive songwriter. But, in disagreement with the ambassador – I mean senator – I would say the issue is so “ripe” that it is stinking up the joint something fierce and needs to be disposed of very quickly before we all pass out.