crypto and public policy

The End Of Innovation

Filed under: Policy June 18, 2004 @ 4:52 pm

Senator Hatch is about to unleash a new bill that would make criminals out of those who “induce” copyright violations. So, if you build any tool that could be used to violate copyright, you’re liable. A computer that can copy songs? Illegal. A VCR that can record a movie? Illegal. A photocopier that can photocopy a book? Illegal.

Why? Because if your photocopier can photocopy a book, then it can also photocopy child pornography. And photocopying child pornography, well that might help spread child pornography! So if there’s a technology, any technology, that can copy things, it must be stopped! Think of the children! Stop downloading those songs, you’re hurting the children!

It’s clear the people behind this bill are the movie and record industries. They want to stop “piracy” at all costs. The interesting question is whether anyone actually believes that file sharing = child porn. And whether stopping file sharing will actually curb child pornography. Anyone? Senator Hatch?

The only sure thing is this: innovation and technology leadership originate with the freedom to build and invent new tools. All tools have potentially criminal uses. Outlaw a tool because it might be used for copyright violation, and you’re effectively outlawing all tools. I cannot imagine a better way to shoot ourselves in the foot and put an end to innovation more quickly than by enacting this bill.

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