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Demerit Badge

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
Photograph: Courtesy of Orrin Hatch
DMCA cosponsor Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
We support copyright--let's make that clear right off the bat; and it makes sense to clarify copyright law for the digital age. But the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a perfect example of how not to do it. This overly broad act protects even laughably bad copy protection systems, letting vastly inferior products succeed by relying on a legal loophole. Worse, the DMCA stifles innovation. We can't count how often vendors building new wireless audio devices or digital media hubs have told us that they don't know if the DMCA will let them include a feature. That can't be good for any of us.

Historical Hassles

Illustration: Robert Neubecker
No new technology is perfect. Every time-saving advance since the wheel has carried its own unique set of difficulties. Here are a few historical annoyances you may not have heard of.

Mid-nineteenth century Early pocket watches used by train engineers weren't very accurate, and each town's official time was slightly different, leading to head-on collisions between locomotives.

Late nineteenth century Telegraph lines were useful, but insecure--anyone with a receiver could tap the line and listen in. Simple encryption was the fix.

1960sA The UNIVAC mainframe came with a high-speed printer that got so hot it was equipped with a Fire indicator and an Extinguish button.

The Dirty Dozen

We asked more than 250 PC World readers about a raft of tech annoyances. These are the worst, rated on a scale of 1 (not annoying) to 7 (extremely annoying).

  1. Sites that hijack your browser home page: 6.87
  2. Downloads that come with spyware: 6.80
  3. Services you can't unsubscribe from: 6.60
  4. Viagra/prescription-drug spam: 6.54
  5. Animated ads blocking out a Web page: 6.52
  6. Pornographic spam: 6.50
  7. Pop-up/pop-under ads: 6.47
  8. Nigerian scam spam: 6.31
  9. Overpriced printer ink: 6.18
  10. All the work required to get a rebate: 6.10
  11. (tie) RealPlayer marketing tactics; cryptic error text: 5.97
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