June 23, 2003
Larry battens down the Hatch

One of the things I missed while out of town was Larry Simon catching Sen. Orrin Hatch using unlicensed software on his Senate web page. The story was widely picked up (see Wired's coverage, for example, which notes that Continental Airlines is doing the same thing). Larry got himself quoted in this Salt Lake Trib story and noted by the hometown paper. In the end, Hatch and the software contractor who did his web page as well as those of several other Senators fixed the problem, but the whole issue raises a bunch of questions, some of which Larry poses here:

So what if a contractor did the site for him. The site would be just as much in violation and could be smoked.
So what if the software was for free. It was unlicensed, period. Would a Freeware/Adware/Shareware developer have the right to defend their intellectual property the same as Microsoft or Sun would?
So what if it was a mistake. As I hear 100 times a day, the country is full of "computer dummies" that make mistakes all the time. But should such a mistake have such a drastic remedy without due process?
So what it's just a computer. Yes, and try to think of all the things that run on a computer. My brother-in-law went in for surgery a while back. He came out with a computer-controlled drip in his arm. What would have happened if the control software had been illegal, on a wireless LAN, and "fried" by Orrin Hatch?

This was part of a rant about the general media, which picked up the story that a link on Hatch's page had been hijacked by a porn site faster and with more enthusiasm than the more difficult story about software licensing. This is a huge issue, one that won't go away any time soon, and one that's being decided by large corporations who want to control the market to protect their business models rather than adapt to rapid changes. There's more to media consolidation than just the FCC letting a handful of companies buy up every media outlet in existence. As a security consultant said during a presentation I attended about viruses, if someone else can run a program on your computer, it's no longer your computer.

Good job, Larry. I'm sure you won't let all this fame go to your head.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 23, 2003 to Technology, science, and math | TrackBack