Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dep't of Framing: Consumer Rights in the Digital Age Edition

by Tom Bozzo

The MSM has an annoying habit of using "Patriot Act" to refer to what should be the USA PATRIOT Act, which is an acronym for United States of America Prying and Tattling to Really Improve On Terrorism Act or something like that. Still, I have to smile when the good guys get in on the scam.

Rep. Rick Boucher recently introduced a bill, H.R. 1201, that would codify some exceptions to the anti-circumvention provision of the notorious Digital Millennium Copyright Act (*), as well as enshrine in statute a version of the Supreme Court's Betamax decision. The latter provision would declare in some way that time-shifting broadcasts for personal use is not a copyright infringement. Text of the bill isn't yet available at the Library of Congress THOMAS site, so I'm not sure just what it will allow.

In the last two Congresses, predecessor legislation had been known as the Digital Media Consumer Rights Act, but who's for consumer rights? The new bill is entitled the Freedom And Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship Act of 2007, or the FAIR USE Act. Nice.

To try to reduce content providers' opposition, the FAIR USE Act does reportedly eliminate the fair use defense for circumvention other than that specifically allowed by statute. This apparently is to no avail, as Playlist reports on the story under the headline "RIAA opposes new fair use bill."

Still, this sounds like a good thing for us netroots to agitate for, seeing how much we all depend on fair use.

RIAA, not surprisingly, oversells the benefits of DMCA's anti-circumvention provision, claiming that it has enabled much of the online digital-content distribution economy. This is a stretch when the top music download service's DRM is so weak as to barely limit rights (i.e., you can strip iTunes content of its DRM by allowed burning of iTunes tracks to CD), another service offers music with no DRM at all, and for that matter online games use copy-protection methods such as CD and DVD keys that would be familiar to old-skool gamers of the pre-DMCA era. But it's their job to be to fair use what the NRA is to gun control.


(*) This makes it unlawful to circumvent copy protection systems for digital media.

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