Commentary > Wastler's Wanderings
Kill criminal computers
A key senator suggests destroying pirate computers ... hmmm, is he onto something?
June 19, 2003: 12:28 PM EDT

Sign up for the Eyeopener e-mail newsletter

"We have detected illegal music on your hard drive. Your computer will self-destruct in five seconds. Good-bye, pirate ..." (kick in old "Mission Impossible" theme music).

Hey, that may be the brave new world if Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah known for hanging on the way right side of the political aisle, gets his way.

Well, we take away cars used in drug trafficking and the like. Why not blow up computers used for pirating too? If it's against the law, it's against the law, right?

In case you didn't catch it, during a Senate Judiciary committee hearing this week on copyright abuse, the chairman -- that'd be Sen. Hatch -- endorsed technology that would twice warn a computer user about illegal online behavior, "then destroy their computer."

Nobody seemed to like his stance, which is a shame. Simple problem ... people steal songs using their computers ... simple answer ... destroy their computers.

Of course, there may be some unintended consequences. To download songs efficiently, you really need broadband connections. Sure, lots of people are getting that in their homes. But most folks ... well ... the office computer has a big honkin' Internet connection, right?

Of course, it's hard to tell how many are doing that. What do you do? Ask "everybody doing illegal music downloads at work, raise your hand."

But take this confidential memo recently circulated around Warner Music Group:

"If you have peer-to-peer software on your company computer, you must remove it immediately," General Counsel Dave Johnson wrote June 3. He even underlined the important part. "Failure to do so, and the failure to respect music copyrights may lead to disciplinary action, including termination. Beginning shortly, we will scan our computer network to detect the presence of file sharing software on company computers."

Now if a record company -- one of the companies at the forefront of the anti-Napster, anti-KaZaA, anti-you-name-it movement -- has to tell its employees to lay off the music downloads, well, what do you think the rest of the drones in Corporate America are doing? (The company, which is a corporate cousin of CNN/Money, declined to comment.)

Okay, so while we burn through the computers of long-haired grunge geeks staying up late in some dirty little garret downloading the latest from Disturbed, we also take out the corporate workstations of some button-down yes-man types listening to the Grateful Dead while they happily crunch numbers for their corporate masters.

Click above for more

Actually, there's probably just as many of the latter as the former. But hey, you get what you deserve. And if corporations need to replace a lot of computers it will up business spending and aid the economy, right?

Hey, I'm liking this solution. And it can take care of other cyber problems as well. Porn? Spam? Kill the offending computer. Even more opportunity to increase business and consumer spending.

Yeah, yeah. Some civil libertarians may object to the porn and spam thing. Freedom of speech and all that.

And some people (Steve Jobs at Apple, for instance) seem to think it may be easier just to offer people easy and cheap music downloads.

But c'mon ... destroying computers ... isn't that more fun?  Top of page

Allen Wastler is Managing Editor of CNN/Money and can be emailed at

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus rally
Thanks for nothing, Corporate America
It's not just the economy, stupid
The weird reason that mighty Amazon isn't in the Dow
Glenn Beck walks off CNN interview over questions about his company
Jurassic World sequel crosses $700 million at global box office

graphic graphic