It's not like we needed any more proof the content cartel will stop at nothing to achieve its goals, that there is no argument too base and no tactic too vile for the champions of copyright abuse. But thanks to The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property (TCOTAIP), we have it in spades.
Last week, TCOTAIP published its recommendations on what the U.S. government should do to combat the scourge of piracy. The seven-person commission is made up of professional bureaucrats and former high-tech CEOs, and it's co-chaired by former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and ex-director of national intelligence Dennis C. Blair. Though the report has China's counterfeiting and trade-secret thievery in its crosshairs, the implications extend easily to any file-sharing, copyright-mocking scallywag.
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The 84-page report spends most of its time outlining how we got where we are today, the methods of attack used by cyber thieves and spies, and the costs of international theft of IP. It's fascinating reading, if you also enjoy browsing phone directories and software manuals. But right around page 81 it gets interesting. That's when the Commission offers up one possible solution to copyright violations:
Software can be written that will allow only authorized users to open files containing valuable information. If an unauthorized person accesses the information, a range of actions might then occur. For example, the file could be rendered inaccessible and the unauthorized user's computer could be locked down, with instructions on how to contact law enforcement to get the password needed to unlock the account.
As Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow notes, there's already a term for that technique popular among organized gangs of cyber criminals: ransomware. He writes:
It's just more evidence that copyright enforcers' network strategies are indistinguishable from those used by dictators and criminals.
Do two wrongs make a right?
But that's just the beginning. In the next section, the Commission recommends something more heinous -- infecting cyber thieves' systems with malware:
While not currently permitted under U.S. law, there are increasing calls for creating a more permissive environment for active network defense that allows companies not only to stabilize a situation but to take further steps, including actively retrieving stolen information, altering it within the intruder's networks, or even destroying the information within an unauthorized network. Additional measures go further, including photographing the hacker using his own system's camera, implanting malware in the hacker's network, or even physically disabling or destroying the hacker's own computer or network.
Note the use of every government's favorite literary technique, the passive voice: "There are increasing calls for...." Who's calling for that, exactly? I'll give you one guess. Back in 2008, then-RIAA president (now CEO) Cary Sherman floated a similar scheme. One of the RIAA and MPAA's favorite senators is Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who hails from the same state as Huntsman. Consider the dots connected.