You can always count on the folks at the Recording Industry Association of America to take a bad situation and make it worse.
For the past few weeks, the juvenile delinquents at LulzSec and Anonymous have been breaking into networks and web sites and bragging about their exploits to prove–we’ll it’s not clear just what they are trying to prove other than that they can do it. For the most part, the damage has not been terribly serious. It’s a bit like the heyday of graffiti, when the inability or unwillingness of authorities to stop spray-painting vandals created a pervasive sense of disorder in big cities.
Now the RIAA has come forward, arguing that the proper response to the outbreak of network vandalism is the passage of a truly bad law called the Protect IP Act. In a blog post, RIAA Executive Vice President Neil Turkewitz argues that the way to restore order is to give the government broad powers to block access to web sites that are accused of distributing pirated works. “And in a world where hackers set their sights on new targets every day – most recently the official United States Senate website, allegedly the CIA’s public website and Arizona’s law enforcement database – do we think a lawless Internet defended to the extreme is a good thing?,” he writes.
The real problem with the LulzSec and Anonymous is that they are making the FBI, Secret Service, and other agencies charged with enforcing order on the internet look silly. Back in the 1970s, law enforcement tended to ignore graffiti because officials felt they had more important things to worry about. This was a mistake because the garish spray painting told the public the police could not do their job. A crackdown on internet vandals is in order, but we shouldn’t use this as an excuse for another bad law to save an industry from a failed business model.