The chairman of the US Senate's judiciary committee appeared to be backtracking from a statement in which he advocated destroying the computers of people who download copyrighted music from the internet.
Senator Orrin Hatch is said to have told a committee's witnesses that damaging a downloader's computer "may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights", according to media reports.
But in a statement Hatch said he does not advocate "extreme" solutions to unauthorised downloads of copyrighted materials if more moderate solutions can be found.
Hatch was responding to testimony from Randy Saaf of MediaDefender, a company apparently working on ways to disrupt downloads of music and movies.
Saaf had testified that his company was not interested in destroying downloaders' computers, but Hatch answered, "If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines," according to the report.
The committee was hearing from witnesses about the dangers of using P2P file sharing services. Some users have inadvertently offered their entire hard drives for downloading by other P2P users, including financial documents and medical data, witnesses said.
After Hatch's proposal was criticised as "draconian" by Senator Patrick Leahy, Hatch issued a statement which said he wanted to push private industry to come with solutions to unauthorised file trading.
"I made my comments at yesterday's hearing because I think that industry is not doing enough to help us find effective ways to stop people from using computers to steal copyrighted, personal or sensitive materials," he said. "I do not favour extreme remedies - unless no moderate remedies can be found. I asked the interested industries to help us find those moderate remedies."
Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service