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Wednesday, August 2, 2000

Storm was a
reminder Hawaii
is vulnerable

Bullet The issue: Tropical Storm Daniel threatened the islands but in the end caused no damage.
Bullet Our view: The storm should remind residents of Hawaii's vulnerability to hurricanes.

HAWAII doesn't get a lot of hurricanes, which is good. But the relative rarity of these monster storms tends to make islanders complacent, which is bad.

No one knows when the next disaster like Hurricane Iniki of 1992 will strike Hawaii, but only the uninformed would presume that there won't be another one. This gives nonevents like Tropical Storm Daniel a certain value. They serve as a reminder that Hawaii is vulnerable to such disasters.

There is a thin line between a full-fledged disaster and a dud that fails to live up to its billing. Daniel was a flop and Hawaii is back to normal. But it could easily have been otherwise.

People must realize that every hurricane that approaches the islands has to be regarded as a potential disaster and to prepare accordingly.

Anyone prone to criticize the Weather Bureau for its warnings about a storm that in the end did no damage is making a serious mistake. Hurricanes are notoriously unpredictable in direction and wind strength. Even with the best of scientific equipment, forecasters can only make reasonable estimates -- with healthy margins of error.

Forecasters are aware of the danger of crying wolf too often, but they also know that they would never be forgiven if they failed to alert the public of a storm that really did strike. People have to realize that it is impossible to predict a hurricane's path with certainty.

In the case of Hurricane Iniki, the storm swerved from its previous course to strike Kauai head-on. In the case of Daniel, the storm veered north of its previous track and away from the islands.

Daniel had another benefit. It gave state and county civil defense organizations an opportunity to stage an exercise that will undoubtedly be valuable if a real disaster strikes.

Thousands of emergency-response workers were placed on standby, a telephone call away from activation. In addition to government agencies, private-sector organizations such as hospitals, utility companies and the Red Cross were on alert.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration were watching the situation. The SBA had already dispatched personnel from the mainland.

Jocelyn Collado of the Hawaii chapter of the American Red Cross said the alert "gave us a good practice for the next hurricane." The same might be said of all affected organizations. These efforts are not wasted if the people use them to maintain and improve their operations.

For the general public, the message is: Be prepared to deal with a hurricane. No matter how many storms miss Hawaii, it's only a matter of time before one hits.

Piracy in cyberspace
cannot be tolerated

Bullet The issue: A federal appeals court has overturned a temporary ban on Napster software's use to copy music via the Internet.
Bullet Our view: Court action and other measures will be needed to stop Internet thievery of a wide range of copyrighted material.

PIRACY is among the biggest problems accompanying the growth of the Internet. It is best illustrated by a federal court case in California over software created last year by a Northeastern University freshman. The software, called Napster, has become the safecracker for millions of Internet users who love music but don't want to pay for it. Such thievery must be stopped.

Napster allows users to download songs via the Internet in brazen defiance of copyright laws. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), representing major record companies, sued Napster in December, accusing it of contributing to copyright infringement.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel of San Francisco last week ordered a temporary halt to the piracy while the case is pending. However, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside her order. Music thieves are flocking to Napster's Web site in anticipation of an eventual permanent ban.

"I am happy and grateful that we do not have to turn away our 20 million users and that we can continue to help artists," said Napster creator Shawn Fanning.

Beginning musicians may regard Napster as a potential avenue of promotion, but Fanning's conclusion that his program helps artists is absurd. How is a professional musician benefited by the public's ability to download music free from the Internet instead of buying it at a music store?

The appeals court overturned Judge Patel's order, which specified that Napster stop infringing on songs owned by RIAA members, at least partly because of its inability to distinguish between legally and illegally copied songs. That inability is a major reason why Napster should be banned from the Internet.

The San Francisco case has repercussions far beyond Napster or even the music industry. The Internet could become a means of infringing on copyright protection of books, movies and television and other intellectual property rights. The Motion Picture Association of America already is taking legal action against Scour Inc. and other companies that provide film and video over the Internet.

The federal appeals court should reinstate the Napster ban as soon as possible. Federal legislation and international agreements may be needed to prevent such practices from destroying intellectual property rights.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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