My family and I got back from our annual vacation in the Current Middle Ages last Friday morning around 2 a.m. Exhausted from the trip, I forgot to take in my iPod and left it visibly displayed on the front seat. When I went out to the car the next morning, I found the passenger-side window broken and the iPod (along with some other items in the front seat) stolen. I called the police, and an officer came out to take my report. He was properly professional and sympathetic. He informed me that the chief tool available was a database that pawnshops must maintain of any electronic devices that are pawned. If the serial number on my iPod came up in the database, they would nab the felon. Otherwise, though, there wasn’t much hope. The officer also advised me that there had been some similar incidents in the general neighborhood and that the best way to avoid having my car broken into in the future was to make sure that no electronics or charging cords were visible. I thanked him for his professionalism and advice and that was that.
Then I got to thinking, what if I were the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) or the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)? How would I handle the theft of my iPod and the advice from the police on how to avoid future break ins? Rather differently, as I explain below . . . .
So if I were the MPAA, how would I handle this?
1) Berate the cop who answered my call for not stopping the crime before it happened. I would also go around to everyone in my neighborhood and accuse them of “supporting theft” from their failure to set up a neighborhood watch to protect my right to leave my iPod in the front seat of my car.
2) When the cop told me that I could reduce the likelihood of future car break-ins by keeping electronics hidden, I would shout at the cop for “supporting theft.” After all, I have a perfect right to keep my iPod in my car, prominently displayed if I want. How dare this cop tell me to change my behavior to avoid getting robbed!
3) Later, I would try to get the cop who advised me on how to avoid future car break-ins fired for “abetting car thieves.” I would conduct a public smear campaign in which I accused this cop of being in bed with thieves, fences, and other nefarious dealers in stolen goods because he “supports theft” by advising me how to avoid future car break-ins rather than setting a 24/7 guard on my driveway or preemptively arresting anyone who looks like he or she might steal my iPod. After all, if you really cared about stopping theft, you wouldn’t tell me to change my behavior or take steps to protect myself! I have a perfect right to leave my iPod in my front seat, and theft is wrong. So telling me to hide my iPod to avoid a break in means you don’t really want to enforce the law.
4) While I’m at it, I will also accuse my neighbors of secretly wanting to steal my iPod. They have motive (who wouldn’t want a free iPod?) and opportunity, so they are all prime suspects. I will demand the police conduct a house-to-house search. If they are too busy, I insist the police give ME the right to do a house-to-house search. I will also start harassing my neighbors and treating them like criminals. If they tell me to bugger off, and demand to see a warrant before I search their homes for my iPod, I will point to their bad attitude as proof that they are either thieves or support thieves. Why else would they object?
5) I would lobby the Montgomery County Council to place a 24/7 guard on my driveway so I can leave my iPod in the front seat. I would also insist on a video surveillance system and fingerprinting for anyone who comes with 500 feet of my car. Any neighbors who complain about what a waste of tax payer money this is, or that it invades their privacy, or that they don’t like giving fingerprints to police to protect my right to leave my iPod in the front seat “support theft” and deserve the smear treatment.
5) I would give $1 million in campaign donations to any County Council rep who votes for my proposals. I would give the same amount to the opponents of any County Council member who even suggests that my proposals are a little extreme and maybe I ought to just put my iPod in the glove compartment. I would hold parties where County Council members can meet famous movie stars and recording artists, all of whom will urge the members of the County Council to vote for my eminently reasonable proposal to avert the veritable crime wave of iPod thefts in my driveway.
6) I would produce statistics that show that Montgomery County loses thousands of dollars and numerous jobs annually from iPod theft from my driveway. Anyone who questions the accuracy of these statistics “supports iPod theft.”
7) Then I will wonder why I am so unpopular with my neighbors. I will conclude they have been deluded by the pawnshop lobby. Or they support iPod theft. But it can’t be anything wrong with me, since I have a perfect right to leave my iPod in the front seat of my car and anyone who questions any measures to protect that right either supports theft or is being controlled by the pawnshop lobby.
You may ask, wouldn’t actually be easier, cheaper and more effective for me to change my habits and be a bit more careful about leaving my iPod and other electronic devices on the front seat of my car? To which I can only say “if you can even ask that question, you clearly support iPod theft.”
Stay tuned . . .