November 16, 2005 1:26 PM PST

Politicos wary of changes to copyright law

WASHINGTON--Politicians on Wednesday voiced reluctance to rewrite laws and allow people to bypass, in the name of fair use, copy-protection mechanisms on goods such as CDs and software.

The statements came at a hearing here convened by a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that deals with commerce, trade and consumer protection.

A provision of standard copyright law known as fair use allows for permission-free reproduction of certain copyright works, provided it's for certain noncommercial purposes, such as teaching, news reporting, criticism and research.

But fair use gets no mention in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, a law that broadly prohibits cracking copy-protection technology found in products such as DVDs, computer software and electronic books. Critics say that omission eats away at consumers' rights to use the works in ways standard fair use rights would otherwise permit. The law's supporters, including the entertainment industry, counter that any changes would lead to rampant piracy.

Some members of Congress have been trying for years to pass legislation that would build fair use into the DMCA. That's one of the major goals of their latest effort, called the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act. The measure was reintroduced in March by Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat, and backed by Rep. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"It boils down to this: I believe that when I buy a music album or movie DVD, it should be mine once I leave the store," Barton said at the hearing, which featured a panel of eight representatives from a range of industries.

The majority of those panelists--including the digital rights organization Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the Library Copyright Alliance--urged Congress to adopt the latest proposal. They've said passage of the consumers' rights act is even more important with new copy-protection proposals for digital television and radio--the so-called "broadcast flag" and "analog hole"--in the pipeline, though those ideas have received mixed reviews in Congress.

"Fair use is not piracy," said Peter Jaszi, an American University copyright law professor, who said the current phrasing of the DMCA "cries out for legislative redress." Standard copyright law "does not just accept fair use but actively encourages it."

But panelists encountered reservations--and outright opposition--from several members of the House subcommittee, including Chairman Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, who said he thought the solution should lie in technology, "not necessarily in legislation."

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumers Electronics Association, said the companies he represents could probably build products with technology that could effectively limit the number of copies made while allowing for fair uses. But he admitted it's hard to prevent hacking. "If you build a smarter mousetrap," he said, "you do get smarter mice."

Stearns and others said they were concerned that any law allowing circumvention of copy-protection devices would undercut the purpose of the DMCA and could be exploited by criminals looking to pirate works.

"I hope we can slow down the movement of (the consumer) bill or stop it entirely," said Rep. Mary Bono, a California Republican who described herself as a "staunch opponent" of the bill.

Barton and Boucher said they disagreed: The same penalties would continue to apply to pirates, they said.

Some politicians at the hearing suggested it would be better to wait and see if the market can resolve the tensions on its own. Stearns said that rather than rushing to legislate or struggling to figure out, for instance, how many copies a person could make before violating fair use principles, the industry should "work together to get a unified DRM (digital rights management) system that all consumers can understand."

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>"It boils down to this: I believe that when
>I buy a music album or movie DVD, it should
>be mine once I leave the store," Barton said
>at the hearing, which featured a panel of eight
>representatives from a range of industries.

Exactly

>"I hope we can slow down the movement of (the
>consumer) bill or stop it entirely," said Rep.
>Mary Bono, a California Republican who
>described herself as a "staunch opponent" of
>the bill.

Some REPRESENTATIVE. I guess Mary Bono's district is comprised of the RIAA.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stearns afraid of rushing to legislate
Funny how they're afraid of rushing to legislate rights of
ordinary citizens. They certainly were fine with rushing to take
away those rights and grant giant companies with plenty of
lobbyists the right to do whatever the wanted (leading to the
Sony fiasco).

Technology is not the answer. Having some CD player/software
program decide that I've made too many copies of a song is
inappropriate.

I don't pirate music or movies, but I do make copies. I make
regular copies of music for my car because they get scratched
up easily.

The REAL pirates are PRESSING their CDs and DVDs. All that
DMCA (and most of these laws) does is punish the honest
people. The mom that would like to make a copy of that Disney
DVD that the kids destroy in a matter of a couple weeks time.
The son that wants to listen to his mix CD in his car.

DMCA does absolutely NOTHING to stop real pirates. It never has
and it never will.

If you are to believe all the RIAA/MPAA lies, you have to assume
that virtually everyone is spending all their time just making
endless copies of CDs and DVDs. In their eyes, everyone is a
pirate until proven otherwise.
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Same ol stroy
Its all about money. The MPAA and RIAA throws a lot of money at politicians, especially representatives from California who are not in a rush to lose that amount of support come reelection time. This stalling has nothing to with seeing if the market will resolve this issue, which it will not, its about the entertainment industry waving some cash in people's faces. I am sure this change will be buried under other more "important" matters.
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Link Flag
Who will this hurt?
There are some odd angles to this business. I actually work in copyright management (music publishing).

The inability to burn a copy of a commercially available CD, or rip an mp3, will prevent the company I work for from getting material to ad agencies in useful time for ad campaigns (they usually want things the day before yesterday - not when they arrive by post from the USA).

Pity they shut WinMX. It was very useful to us in quickly tracking down real copyright infringements (where they sampled or copied part of a song written by one of our clients). Because, of course, you need to do this on a worldwide scale as the offending item frequently is not released in the territory you work in (meaning it cannot be tracked down through normal channels, including i-Tunes).

In both of the above cases, it is the songwriter/artist who loses out.
Posted by Jerry Dawson (125 comments )
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