Bills back fair use


The 'fair-use' forces in the copyright fight over digital rights have gotten
some help from Capitol Hill.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who represents
Silicon Valley, has introduced a bill to make it easier to copy digital

Lofgren said concerns about securing digital content from illegal copying
have 'dramatically altered the balance of copyright law,' a reference to the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The bill, labeled the Digital Choice and Freedom Act of 2002, is advertised
as a third voice -- that of the consumer -- in a debate between Hollywood and
the technology companies, but it is a voice the technology side welcomes.

The Consumer Electronics Association immediately praised the bill as 'an
important step forward in preserving consumers' fair-use rights in a digital
world,' not to mention protecting the market for digital copying devices.

The bill would give consumers the right to make and play a copy of digital
works and 'protect' them from licenses that limit their 'rights and
expectations' (although it is not clear what 'expectations' covers), as well as
allowing them to 'bypass technical measures that impede their rights and
expectations' and to 'develop new and innovative ways to enable lawful

Basically, it would allow users to bypass copy protection if the copies were
'fair use.' The bill would cover 'a literary work (except a computer program),
sound recording or musical work, or dramatic, motion picture or other
audiovisual work.'

Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti was unequivocal
in his opposition to the bill.

'As drafted, this legislation effectively repeals the anti-circumvention
provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,' he said. 'It would deny
content owners the ability to protect their works by technological means. This
means that millions of movies could be illegally downloaded without penalty and
without fear.'

He added,'Content owners would be given a Hobson's choice of
protecting their valuable works by not making them available in digital formats,
or losing all control over unauthorized reproduction and distribution.'

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) also held a press conference to announce his own,
similar legislation 'reaffirming fair-use rights in the digital age.'

That bill, too, was praised by the CEA, which said it will add 'critical
fair-use protections to U.S. copyright law.'