The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Friday, October 08, 2004

File Sharing and Gun Control 

I've found through experience that sometimes it's helpful, when making a case for something, to draw parallels to something else completely different, yet somehow the same. It often times brings things into focus. I was reading today on Slashdot that the Induce Act has died for this year in Congress. For those unfamiliar... the Induce Act is Sen. Orin Hatch's little baby that would make Peer to Peer File Sharing programs illegal because he feels like the makers of this software "induce people" to break copyright law. Many groups have expressed outrage at this for various reasons. Some have pointed out that P2P programs are used for completely legal purposes as well, and this would stifle that technology. Some have argued that the language is so vague that things like a VCR could be considered illegal under the act.

While both correct, few have argued against the basic principle of whether inducing an act simply through making a tool should be illegal. Moreover, does making a tool always lead to its possible illegal use? And is the possible illegal use enough justification to outlaw it. It's just a tool, not unlike a gun. How on Earth are they similar Nick? Well, guns are used for purposes both legal and illegal. People use guns to hunt and for self-defense... both legal activities. They're also used during the commission of crimes. Some have argued that the mere manufacturing of the tool (and that's all a gun is) makes crime easier to commit, and therefore guns should be outlawed all together. Starting to sound familiar yet?

If I put a gun in your hand, what are you going to do with it? Does your mind automatically morph from the good and kind person you are to a criminal who's going to rob a bank, or shoot your neighbor? Are you a criminal first who buys a gun second, or are you a gun owner first who then becomes a criminal because you own one? Do you download songs off the net because you have the software, or do you decide to download the software so that you can download the songs? Make guns illegal, and the only people who will stop buying them are law abiding citizens. Don't kid yourself... criminals will go to the black market. Make P2P software illegal... and believe me, about a dozen websites will pop up selling the software, or offering free downloads of it from servers in China, or Russia, or somewhere else outside U.S. jurisdiction.

I'm sure there are a number of you reading this who are gun control advocates asking yourself... why draw this parallel if you believe that the Induce Act sucks? Aren't you making the case for the other guy? Let me ask you this if you believe that. Are you a gun control advocate who downloads music using P2P software and thinks that the Induce Act sucks too? Isn't that a little hypocritical then? If you think one should be outlawed, shouldn't you think the other should be too? And Sen. Hatch... you've come out against several gun control measures. You've said we need to prosecute criminals, not ban guns. So why the change in reasoning here? Does the MPAA line your pockets with that much money? Think about it.

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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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