Senator backs away from piracy remarks

The chairman of the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee appears to be backtracking from a statement he made in a committee hearing Tuesday in which he advocated destroying the computers of people who download copyrighted music from the Internet.

Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, told a committee's witnesses that damaging a downloader's computer "may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights," according to a story by the Associated Press. But in a statement released late Wednesday, Hatch said he doesn't advocate "extreme" solutions to unauthorized downloads of copyrighted materials if more moderate solutions can be found.

Hatch was responding to testimony from Randy Saaf of MediaDefender, a company apparently working on ways to disrupt downloads of music and movies. Saaf had testified that his company was not interested in destroying downloaders' computers, but Hatch answered, "If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines," according to the Associated Press story.

The Judiciary Committee was hearing from witnesses Tuesday about the dangers of using peer-to-peer (P-to-P) file sharing services. Some users have inadvertently offered their entire hard drives for downloading by other P-to-P users, including financial documents and medical data, witnesses said.

After Hatch's proposal was criticized as "Draconian" by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the judiciary committee, Hatch issued a statement late Wednesday, saying he wants to push private industry to come with solutions to unauthorized file trading.

"I made my comments at yesterday's hearing because I think that industry is not doing enough to help us find effective ways to stop people from using computers to steal copyrighted, personal or sensitive materials," he said in a statement released late Wednesday. "I do not favor extreme remedies -- unless no moderate remedies can be found. I asked the interested industries to help us find those moderate remedies."

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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