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The Courts Government News Your Rights Online

Coble-Berman Bill Would Restrict Fair Use 243

Amazing Quantum Man writes "News.com is reporting on the new Berman-Coble copyright bill. This bill is a two-edged sword. It would make life easier for webcasters, but it would restrict fair use. Interestingly, according to the article, Berman allegedly opposes the bill that has his name on it as a sponsor! I don't think it's on Thomas yet, but Politech has a copy of the bill (2.1M PDF)." The report which the memorandum attached to the bill refers to is online. Congress is making an effort to reconcile traditional copyright law with the realities of digital copying; there's no telling whether the end product will be something tolerable or not.
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Coble-Berman Bill Would Restrict Fair Use

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  • well (Score:1, Insightful)

    by seann ( 307009 )
    they complain about broadband users sucking up all the bandwidth, take a look at that file size, 2 megs! 2 megs just for a document. That's horrid.
    • Re:well (Score:2, Informative)

      by maynard-lag ( 235813 )
      This may have something to do with the pdf format or the pdf format and MS Word. I've noticed the same kind of bloat here at work with pdf's created from word documents. For example:

      word-test.doc - 966 KB

      word-test.pdf - 1,646 KB

    • Not document (Score:1, Informative)

      by af_robot ( 553885 )
      actually this is not a document, but a scan of paper bill without any text recognition.
      And PDF-file is not the best way to do it in a such way.
  • Unfortunatly.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iONiUM ( 530420 )
    A lot of people in congress don't understand the needs of today's technical inclined people. They should bring in as many tech people as they can, or simply ask slashdot when they attempt to make laws that will affect the digital world.
    Understanding the legal ramifications and understanding what's actually going on are two completely different things..
    • That wouldn't work because most of the slashdot crowd HATE corporations... and the corps need to be represented too.

      This isnt a troll... it isn't flamebait. Just what I believe I am observing.
    • "They should bring in as many tech people as they can, or simply ask slashdot when they attempt to make laws that will affect the digital world."

      Unfortunately, to Congress, "bringing in tech people" means bringing in people from MSFT, Oracle, Sony, the (RI|MP)AA, etc. If we are lucky, they might bring in a forward thinking persom from Caltech, MIT, etc. But otherwise, they will bring in industry people who would/do profit from Digital Restrictions Management.

      • That is why technical advisors (to politicians) should be employed by the government or acedemia, so that they are not swayed by self-interest.
        • "That is why technical advisors (to politicians) should be employed by the government or acedemia, so that they are not swayed by self-interest."

          I agree. But I also expect that most people would not take this job because they could make at least twice as much money in industry. The only time I have heard of this happenning was when people were escaping the dot-bomb to stable government jobs, or when they could not find industry jobs (which is part of the dot-bomb in itself.)

    • by w.p.richardson ( 218394 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:02AM (#3870904) Homepage
      Dear Slashdot,

      I'm a government consultant [house.gov] for a large institution [fbi.gov] on the east coast, known for its strongarm tactics. We have recently been contacted by some [riaa.org] of our constituents [riaa.org] about this so-called "file sharing" [bearshare.com] that's a goin' on on the internet. Our job is to put the kabosh on it, tout suite! However, before we lace up the jackboots, we wanted to know what a bunch of college students and open source advocates thought.

      What an utterly laughable idea.

    • Don't wait for them to call you. Write to them, or better yet, fax them. The info you need to do so should be a congress.org They will never hear the voices of people who don't speak up, and the corporations constantly have their ear. Don't let their voices be the only ones congree hears.
  • Abolish copyright entierly. It would break the IP yoke, but I really don't know what all the ramifications would be.

    Discuss.

    • Mod parent UP!
      Great idea!
    • For some idea of the ramifications, I'll give you a personal example.

      I've been writing music in my spare time for a bout a year, which I give away for the cost of a blank disc. This is something I do for fun, I have no desire to become a professional. If there were no copyright law, anybody could take my work and claim it to be their own, posibly making millions of dollars (though not likely, I doubt my stuff is that good), and would not even have to give me credit. If this were the case, I would never let anyone listen to my music, no matter how much they were willing to pay.

      Now I know what you're saying, you're saying "PastorOfMuppets, your music probably sucks any way and the world would be a much better place if no one ever heard your crap." Well I have two thing to say to that. First, ouch. Second, I doubt that I'm the only one who feels that way. Most artists would continue to create art even if no one paid them, but very few would make their work available to the public if someone else could just claim that they created it.

      Basicaly, what you would have is one or two "artists" that would "embrace-and-extend" every new work of art and claim it to be their own invention, Microsoft style.

      --

  • "fair use" (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The only fair use copyright holders will agree to is what makes them money $$$.
  • What will they do about parody sites? I mean, just how much does Congress want to diverge from "physical" copyright protection of standard pen-and-ink non-tangibles?
  • Grey Areas (Score:1, Interesting)

    by prof187 ( 235849 )
    According to the draft bill, such Webcasting "is not an infringement of copyright"--if temporary copies are made only to facilitate music distribution and if the copies are stored only for a time that's necessary for the broadcast.

    The problem w/ the legal system is they leave too many areas for interpretation. What if I think that "necessary time" is long enough to make sure that no one gets cut off, which could be longer than the actual broadcast. Also, what if something goes wrong and your buffer copy doesn't get deleted automatically. Are you now liable for software failure? I doubt anyone would want to sit there and watch the cache to ensure that every single buffer copy is appropriately deleted.

    The law needs to start using definite time frames. If they would quit using generalized times, and start using something physical, such as a day/month/year, they could have a lot more pull in lawsuits.
  • tough choices (Score:1, Insightful)

    by tps12 ( 105590 )
    This is just another example of what happens when our established laws and traditions smash into the emerging ways of the digital revolution.

    There is no conflict here about inalienable rights (speech, et al), but about the "rights" that are more rooted in common sense and conventional wisdom than in any deep philosophy or moral framework.

    What is Fair Use? Did God intend for us to have Fair Use rights? Do animals have Fair Use rights? Clearly, reasoning on this level leads quickly to absurdity.

    In cases like these (for I think we will continue to see legislation like Coble-Berman as the Digital Age gets into full swing), we have to reflect on what it is that has made this society so successful. Few would argue that Western civilization has triumphed due largely to the ongoing improvement of technology.

    During the Rennaisance, during the Age of Reconnaisance, throughout Colonialism and the Industrial Revolution, the common sense values of the time were invariably abandoned or metamorphosed as required by the upward march of technology.

    The Fair Use doctrine has played an important part in 20th century law. Now, in the 21st century, we should not be so attached to it and other anachronisms that we lose sight of the end goal: the improvement of the society of Man through technology. If disposing of these antiquated ideals is the price for better technology, then it is we, the technological elite, who should be the first to sign the bill.
    • Re:tough choices (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nattt ( 568106 )
      Is "fair use" an inalienable right? No. Is "copyright" an inalienable right? No.
      If fair use is removed from copyright, then copyright will no longer work in the way it was intended - to promote science, research etc.
      The best solution is to severely limit what can be copyrighted, remove patents entirely, and limit the amount of time that something can be copyrighted for to, say 25 years.
    • > Few would argue that Western civilization has triumphed due largely to the ongoing improvement of technology.

      I disagree. Oterhwise the Japanese would own the world. Its not technology. Pure and simple, its colonialism backed up by lots of steel, and a period free of plagues and other epidemics on western soil. Oh, and lots and lots of borrowed capital (6 trillion at this point.)

      • Re:tough choices (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GigsVT ( 208848 )
        its colonialism backed up by lots of steel, and a period free of plagues and other epidemics on western soil.

        Uh, technology is what has kept us free of plagues and allowed steel to flow freely and cheaply.
      • Many (most?) people consider Japan part of "Western civilization."

        As for Colonialism, it is easy to see that while some former colonies (e.g., the US) have flourished, the vast majority (Canada, the Philippenes, most of Africa) have been failures, for the natives and the colonists alike.

        Also note that America's borrowed capital is largely thanks to government bonds, which only have value because of the extreme stability of our society. This is even beside the point, however, since Western civilization as a whole (yes, the US is not the only nation in the world, much as some of you would like to think so) has progressed despite "plagues and other epidemics," thanks largely to, yes, technology.

        No, if we are to continue our winning streak, we will have to put our faith in the technology that got us this far.
        • Technological progress is dependent upon the free flow of information. The freer information flows, the faster technology will progress. Copyright, as an artificial barrier to the free flow of information, is therefore an impediment to the progress of technology.

    • Re:tough choices (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Arakonfap ( 454732 )
      One could turn around your statement and say that Copyright has played an important part in 20th century law. Maybe we should abandon that instead?

      And how will technology improve once Fair Use is abandoned? Arn't current mega-corps trying to limit the techology we're CURRENTLY using so that they can make more money?

      Do you really want to live in a world where you get a micro-charge everytime you listen to a song on your RIAA-certified-music-player? Or have to buy a song again if you want to listen to it on a portable device instead of a home system? And pay another micro-charge if you want to listen to it at the computer?

      We have technology now that can easilly move copyrighted material between various mediums, making for a very powerful approach to a data-driven life.

      It sounds like you want this technology to be limited to satisfy these content provider's way of business, all for what? So that we can have better technology? Killing this current technology will bring something better? I'd like to know, what?

      Fair use is important.
    • and you even got a five for it...

      First you shun thousands of years of cultural thinking and even go down the GOD road.

      Then you say that the development of the modern world was down to technology, but using a very narrow definition of technology.

      While it is true that some 'Christian' morals were abandoned (mainly the power-monger ones to do with science being black magic &co), general communist type morals were eroded and replaced with strict ownership laws, e.g. feudalism etc.. These rights are/were slowly being given back to the people.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:55AM (#3871254)
      Wow, whatever PR firm you work for, they did a great job of making you seem to be an actual person. I know you won't be persuaded unless RMS somehow manages to outbid whatever industry association hired you, so I'll focus my comments on pointing out your bias.

      First, by the very fact that this legislation is being submitted, we know that the "established laws and traditions" which are being challenged by "emerging ways of the digital revolution" (btw, "digital revolution" is a dead giveaway, nobody who isn't on the industry dole would say that) is in fact the institution of copyright, which is being challenged by what I will call the Even Fairer Use practice of modern free information sharing. Thus the whole premise of your post is backward: you suggest that technology has somehow threatened our ability to take advantage of the Fair Use rights granted to us under current law, which couldn't be further from the truth. Of course, as a PR industry representative, your goal is not discussion but confusion, so such consistency would not interest you.

      Your framing of the issue also makes your bias blatantly obvious: you suggest that Fair Use rights are in dispute, while tacitly assuming that copyright is necessary. To illustrate this point, let me rephrase one of your paragraphs: "What is copyright? Did God intend for us to have copyrights? Do animals have copyrights? Clearly, reasoning on this level leads quickly to absurdity." By your own "reasoning," this suggests that copyrights are as open to question (i.e., not inalienable) as are Fair Use rights, and you make no effort to show why one is preferable to another. In fact, copyright is the institutionalized restriction of the right to free speech, which you call inalienable; sounds like we should question the "conventional wisdom" about keeping copyright.

      Next, you betray your insider knowledge that your industry trade group plans to continue purchasing this kind of offensive legislation until it succeeds. Gotta be careful about that. And you engage in some Western jingoism about technology, which is implicitly equated with copyright. Unfortunately, you fail to point out that much of this technology (e.g., the Internet) was created by government and university research which would have been impossible if intellectual property law was written the way industry wants it to be.

      Then you suggest that we abandon common sense, suggesting that it has happened before without giving a single specific example, again for "technology" (and another slice of jingoism), which you again fail to link to copyright.

      Your last paragraph, though, is by far the most obviously industry-funded. You dismiss "Fair Use" as an "anachronism" and an "antiquated ideal," without mentioning a single thing which might be wrong with it. I would suggest that it is copyright which is the antiquated anachronism in an age when digital copying allows us to benefit huge numbers of people for almost no cost. Surely that would accomplish "the improvement of the society of Man." You suggest that this bill and others like it will somehow result in improved technology, again without specifying how; in fact, it will not do this in any way. Finally, you attempt to flatter and browbeat the reader by suggesting that he is elite, and that elite people ought to favor this type of legislation, again without any sort of explanation why. Of course, this is because your reason for favoring this legislation is that it will either preserve or increase the profits that your employer makes from restricting the rights of others to distribute information.

      Finally, your presentation is not credible. Your post contains zero grammar or spelling errors, no technological jargon or acronyms, and multiple marketing buzzwords. You are obviously not a programmer or a sysadmin; your background is clearly marketing and public relations.

      I am very concerned that this post was moderated to 5. This means one of two things: either PR people are not just posting to Slashdot but also moderating, or the average Slashdot moderator is unable to recognize PR rhetoric when they see it. I submit this message in the hopes of helping to fix the latter if it is the case.

      • -0.5 (troll-ish)

        While you make some good points, you are being overly harsh. This guy, while maybe a bit misguided, had some good things to say. It is a viewpoint. You disagree. Fine. Maybe he has bought into something that you find suspect, fine too. Give the guy a break.
        Finally, your presentation is not credible. Your post contains zero grammar or spelling errors, no technological jargon or acronyms, and multiple marketing buzzwords. You are obviously not a programmer or a sysadmin; your background is clearly marketing and public relations.
        Kidding? I hope so. If not, you are kidding yourself.
        I am very concerned that this post was moderated to 5. This means one of two things: either PR people are not just posting to Slashdot but also moderating, or the average Slashdot moderator is unable to recognize PR rhetoric when they see it. I submit this message in the hopes of helping to fix the latter if it is the case.
        What are you trying to say, that we only support one viewpoint here? and that since something else is posted that it is suspicious? That is total crap.

        Perhaps I will get modded down for this, but I think you need a nap or something. While you have a good point, saying that this viewpoint has no place in the discussion here is just crap.
    • Re:tough choices (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bob9113 ( 14996 )
      What is Fair Use? Did God intend for us to have Fair Use rights? Do animals have Fair Use rights?

      Neither is copyright a natural law. There is no scarcity in information - hence, copyright is a balance between content creators (copyright) and content consumers (fair use). You can't remove one and have a system that maximizes economic benefit.
      • Corollary to your post, I enjoy pointing out that the only natural laws are the laws of physics. Everything else is a social construct. (Although many social constructs are useful for societies, they are still human constructs.)
    • There is no free speech without fair use.
      If you cannot quote and comment, you cannot speak.
    • Speech is not an inalienable right. You might have learned that if you had taken the time to review the "deep philosophical and moral framework" rather than pretend it does not exist.

      As for your rhetorical questions, yes, clearly, reasoning on that level "leads quickly to absurdity."

      Whether or not the West has triumphed due to it's technology (putting aside the question of whether it has triumphed at all) is a question that helps little to answer how technology advanced in the first place. It answers even less the question of whether triumph is in and of itself a good thing. Atilla the Hun may have thought so. I would like to think we in the west have more to offer, like democracy.

      While I know nothing of the "Age of Reconnaisance," as for the great thinkers of the past three or four centuries, they would all likely say that technology may change our lives and our experiences but only knowledge can change our values. The bomb may change our experience by giving us a new question for our value system but it doesn't provide much in the way of answers.

      As for fair use being antiquated, is that addage about standing on the shoulders of giants just commie propaganda? Isn't the point of art and expression in the sharing? Shouldn't the laws be written by the people who will be held to them rather than the technologists who will execute them?

      You were close with your end goal of "the improvement of the society of man" But the gifts of the "technological elite" should be accepted or rejected not by their creators but by their beneficiaries and victims."

    • What about the rights of the artists/author/owner?
  • This bill is very broad. It limits too much and is unenforcable. What are they going to arrest me and my friend for our Jerry Springer video collection? Also if I claim all of my emails as copyright protected and they are forwarded on, doesn't that break the law in the bill? Hell forwarding /. on to friends would infringe on rights according to this.
  • by oliverthered ( 187439 ) <oliverthered.hotmail@com> on Friday July 12, 2002 @10:52AM (#3870828) Journal

    Copyright has a long tradition, It wasn't something drempt up overnight and in IMHO on the whole not to bad, the only thing I would change would be to reduce the length of the copyright(basicly putting the law back to where it used to be).

    I live in the UK, and it seems that the US and UK are making extram changes about somthing they don't understand, they should ask them selfs: what is copyright for? and is there anything wrong with the current system. and I think they'll find that copyright it to protect the original producer from being ripped off and at the same time to encourage creativity and derived works and that there's nothing wrong with the current systems.
  • Law vs. Reality (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @10:54AM (#3870839)
    Who was it that said that the greatest danger to law enforcement was unenforceable laws?

    This is the case here. Congress (and all the people who are paying for them) are trying to change the reality of a society that's very rapidbly becoming a 'free information' country. They're trying to put limits on something that is changing the world very rapidly and in a very chaotic manner. You can call it 'destructive' if you want to, since it's certainly destroying organizations and businesses that survive by controlling information, but it's jsut change.

    The problem with trying to control this change is that you can't legislate fish into flying or birds into swimming. Just look at Prohibition if you need an example. A small subsection of the country's population tried to legislate away people's rights to get drunk and wasted. They had good intentions. Alcoholism is certainly a problem and destroys many, many lives. By making a law that was disliked and unenforceable, however, the country opened itself up to the ravages of organized crime more than ever before.

    Look at the 'War on Drugs'. Hard drugs (and even some 'soft' drugs) ruin lives and kill people. That doesn't change the fact that people want to get high or stoned. You think that columbian drug lords would have vast fortunes with which to buy submarines and advanced IT installations if the American government hadn't created a situation in which it was more profitable to do dusiness in an illegal manner than legally?

    Information is in the same boat. Companys claim billions and billions of dollars of 'lost sales' (cough *bullshit* cough) on music, software, game, and video piracy. People want to use the stuff in a 'fair use' way. Even moreso, they want to pirate it and not pay for it. All the government is going to do by creating a law that makes it more difficult to legally share information is make more people into criminals who weren't before.
    • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:42AM (#3871159) Homepage Journal
      You hit a key term here, but slightly off. It should be 'disruptive' instead of 'destructive' and then you not only get right to the truth, but you enlist years of sociological research behind legislation like this and other recording-industry abominations are bad.

      The common opinion on /. and the geek community in general is that Internet, file sharing, and the like are bad for some current business models, but in the long run good for society. We point to examples like VCRs, for instance. The problem has been one of convincing the mainstream non-geek population that this is true.

      Enter the term, "disruptive."

      There is a sizable body of mainstream economic literature (sorry, no URLs handy, ran across this in dead-tree pre-URL days) that focuses on "disruptive technologies" - how they are bad for some businesses and business models, but good for society as a whole. This is non-geek literature.

      Our problem is to cast the free and open nature of the Internet as a mainstream distruptive technology as important to society as the telephone, automobile, airplane, etc. Take a look at the international nature of Linux (or *BSD) and tell me that the Internet hasn't done something immensely valuable for mankind. Letter-writing and co-operative journals are old, so is travel, but this is international collaboration of an unprecedented scale by common people. Not only do we take it for granted, we're about to throw it away in exchange for an outmoded and defective business model. (I know, there are no words about shutting down the Internet, but the sum chilling effect of DRM effectively does so by turning it into radio/television.)

      This needs to become a mainstream issue, not a geek one.

      (IMHO, the most socially disruptive technology of recent history has been the sanitary napkin.)
    • Re:Law vs. Reality (Score:3, Insightful)

      by intermodal ( 534361 )
      Who was it that said that the greatest danger to law enforcement was unenforceable laws?

      I disagree. The greatest danger to law enforcement is laws that are easy to enforce but do little for the greater good. How many times have you seen people pulled over by speed traps when there were better things that could be done with the cop's time, like actually patrolling an area?

      Laws need to be focused on things that can be agreed upon by society as a whole. If two large sides vigorously disagree yet something is made illegal, then obviously something should probably not be made illegal, since the purpose of the united states government as designed is to protect freedom, not to restrict it for the benefit of the minority.
  • It sounds to me like Section 1 states their going to amend title 17 to say such-and-such is legal, rather than saying such-and-such is illegal. Very restrictive.
    Comments from others?
    www.yitiens.org doesn't have it up yet but they follow things like this.
  • Note the Source (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sdjunky ( 586961 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @10:55AM (#3870849)
    Quote "'The biggest impediment to more licensed, lawful services online is piracy, and that's why he is pushing his peer-to-peer bill,' Smith said. Berman represents California's San Fernando Valley, adjacent to Los Angeles and Hollywood's cluster of entertainment companies. " - End Quote

    I mean. I may not agree with him but this is a politician who is doing something most politicians don't do. He's representing his district ( this includes the media/software conglomerates ) and so you have to give him credit for that

    NOTE: I don't endorse the proposal, but before people roast this guy alive just remember where he's coming from. Unlike Hollings who doesn't care a lick about his constituents
    • "He's representing his district"

      Well at least the well funded residents of it.

      I'll go out on a limb and say he's not doing this for the
      good of the average person in his district.
      • I live very near Berman's district, if not IN his district. Berman, like Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, my two Senators, is 100% 0wn3d by the RIAA and the MPAA.

        It's really screwed...whenever there's a bill like this, I can't write my congresscritters because I know they will not be very sympathetic to my viewpoint. So much for representative democracy... [sigh]
      • The most well funded residents might fuel the entire economy of his district. Local restaurants, for example, probably depend on the employees of these companies.

        Maybe not, but I'm pretty sure he thinks he's acting in the best interests of all of the residents of his district.
    • Rep Berman spoke at our [ccianet.org] washington caucus 2 weeks ago where he announced the p2p self help bill he is working on. One of the more interesting things he said was that he never was interested in IP, and didn't know much about it before coming to Congress, but considering that he represented Hollywood, he figured he should get on the IP subcommittee to "represent his district."

      Incidently, PTO head, James Rogan (formerly a Congressman from Orang County) pretty much said the same thing motivated him to get into IP issues which heknew next to nothing about before coming to Congress.
  • The proposed bill is all bad. It's just a move to stop a bill coming that the webcasters really want passed.

    Call your congress people and tell them you are against this thing.
  • Since apparantly Terrorists are behind every corner, 100% of America's vigilance must be rivited to 'watching out' for them on major holidays and/or sporting events.

    Does anyone else find it suspicious that Major 'Terrorist Attack' ratings boosters appear to distract the 'average joe' whenever one of these bills is introduced ?

    Remember folks .. those people who buy the big foam fingers at minor league baseball games have the right to vote too - I mean , unless there is a terrorist hiding behind the booth .. then they may just be too concerned about that to pull the lever. There are more of them then there are of educated, informed people - and the media companies both know and *count* on this.

    Just for fun ask 10 people who voted in the last election - if they can name 5 people (aside from the person they voted for) who appeared on the docket along with their 'chosen' canadate.
    Or make it simple and just ask why they voted the way they did.

    This bill is strictly a media bill. Who on EARTH would profit from allowing people to NOT record TV shows .. Would that be the struggling american public .. most of whom have a 6-7th grade reading level .. and less than 50% own a computer .. even less with broadband ? Or could it possibly be the SAME companys that own the news channels that captivate (distract) the same voting public with sensationalistic programming ?

    I find it very funny that Micky Mouse was brought up .. considering im SURE Disney is a major player behind this bill.

    Our system of laws, while the intentions are good, has degenerated into the 'informed' and the 'un-informed' Folks don't object to bills because they are spoon-fed the baby bird version by mamma CNN. What does a farmer in the middle of Iowa care if he can upload the new britney spears song to his sister's kid in Ohio? But ask the same guy if he thinks its fair for MEDIA COMPANIES .. not the government .. to tell him what he is allowed to do with a CD that he just bought. With money he was already taxed on.

    Im betting you would get a totally different answer.
    • I couldn't even tell you 5 of the people I voted for. I could tell you that I didn't really like a single one of them.

      I sure wish that I could really believe that voting for the lesser of two evils would make things better. Unfortunately, experience doesn't bear that out. Perhaps sometimes it slows the rate at which things get worse.

      What do you do if you want to vote against *all* of the candidates? Nobody would have been a definite improvement this time.
  • by xSterbenx ( 549640 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:00AM (#3870896)
    "If you were to take today's episode of 'E.R.' and tape it and give it to your mother, it would be copyright infringement under this bill," said Jessica Litman, a professor at Wayne State University who specializes in copyright law.

    At first glance this seemed the most rediculous thing I've ever heard. I mean, taping shows in VCRs is the best way to catch a show you missed, and letting a friend or parent watch it if they missed it too is second nature.

    Then I got to thinking about this in terms of today's technology. Pretty soon, we could be burning these shows onto DVDs with DVD-like quality and giving them to people. Of course this could happen today, but I'm talking mainstream ala VCRs. But then, with that kind of technology you could tape the shows and then sell whole series on DVDs to people. You could even edit out commericials. The possibilities are endless.

    Is this a bad thing? Not inherently, but it could get worse, imho. VCRs are tediously outdated, but are used because they are simple. With DVD or like technology, shows can be uploaded online with ease, carried around, played on your work computer, etc. It really changes the way you think about the whole TV/Movie/Music watching concept, and as such our laws around them must change as well.

    I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It may be that pretty soon you can't let anyone else listen to a CD you bought.

    • Why do the laws need to change? Copyright law (pre DMCA) already had these situations covered.

      Just because something that used to be profitable is no longer profitable is no reason to change the law. It is a reason to go do something else.

      • Just because something that used to be profitable is no longer profitable is no reason to change the law. It is a reason to go do something else.

        You statement is true in some instances, but I hope you're not dogmatic about it. Many slashdotters will preface it with some comment about how the cars destroyed the horse and buggy industry and so all the blacksmiths were anti-car.

        The difference is that horseshoes are no longer in demand, but music and movies very much still are. When new technology destroys the profitability of an item without rendering it obsolete, there is ample reason to consider a change to the law. That's part of the reason why governments subsidize farming.

        -a
        • by Rupert ( 28001 )
          Food is still in demand, yet farming is horribly unprofitable, except for a few corporate mega-farms. So the government steps in, and sets up subsidies and price controls. Unfortunately, most of these end up increasing the profits of the already-profitable farms, without enabling the smaller farmers to actually make a living. Likewise steel, and any other "protected" industry.

          I suppose we should be grateful that they're not banning sharing food, or growing your own food, or mandating Food Rights Management on all refridgerators.

          There are still blacksmiths. There just aren't as many as there were before. Many do it as a hobby rather than a job. Likewise farmers. If there's a market for movies, people will make movies. But you shouldn't expect the movie industry to be as big or as profitable as it is now, and that's what upsets the people who currently run that industry.

          • There are still blacksmiths. There just aren't as many as there were before. Many do it as a hobby rather than a job. Likewise farmers. If there's a market for movies, people will make movies. But you shouldn't expect the movie industry to be as big or as profitable as it is now, and that's what upsets the people who currently run that industry.

            You're missing the point. There isn't a market for horseshoes because horse-drawn carriages are now obsolete. The small remaining market is nostalgia... blacksmiths at tourist traps, carriage rides through the park, etc. However, music and movies are just as popular as they have always been, and only copyright-circumvention technology threatens their business case.

            This is an absolutely fundamental difference. No, the government shouldn't go around propping up industries that are dying out because of technological obsolescence. However, they should take a marked interest in industries that are hurting because of abuses of technology.

            Guns are an example of a potentially harmful technology. Did the government decide that guns make law enforcement obsolete and people are going to have to find a new way to survive? No, of course not.

            Let's say that farming is unprofitable because of fierce competition from other countries. Should the government cave in, remove all subsidies, and depend entirely on foreign sources of food? I certainly hope not.

            Believe it or not, most people like to see big budget movies. Even a low budget Hollywood movie costs $3M. I hope you like indie films because under your system every movie will be an indie movie.

            -a
            • These are really two different industries. Unfortunately the same companies, who are part of the same cartel, control both.

              Moviemaking is not technologically threatened. I can not make Star Wars in my back yard, even if my neighbour is a better actor than Hayden Christianson. However, movie studios only make money on their movies because copyright gives them control over distribution.

              Movie distribution is technologically threatened. I don't believe there's a compelling public interest in keeping the existing distribution system in place for its own sake, particularly if more efficient methods are being made possible by the application of new technology.

              The question is, can we find a way to support the movie making industry without propping up its outdated monopoly on distribution?

              • The question is, can we find a way to support the movie making industry without propping up its outdated monopoly on distribution?

                That's the thing. I really doubt it. But some people would like to abolish copyright without thinking all the consequences through. That could theoretically work for music (although I doubt it), but it can hardly work for books and movies where there is nothing sacred about a live performance.

                -a
    • "Pretty soon, we could be burning these shows onto DVDs with DVD-like quality and giving them to people."

      Your point? So you can record at a higher quality, big deal. This is _EXACTLY_ like someone with cable taping a show from a broadcast network for a friend with crappy "rabbit-ears" reception. The video editing you speak of is already easy enough to do with todays (or last tuesdays) tech.

      Media companies need to adapt their business models, not buy laws to prop up their outdated plans.
    • It is still ridiculous, as Jessica Litman, an expert on copyright law, is able to see. The "quality available with todays technology arguement" is bullshit. It's nothing more than a distraction, which has unfortunately sucked you in. Every "problem" you list is easily acheivable with technology readily available for years now, and yet the content industry has somehow managed to survive.

      It is actually (currently) much easier to upload video from a VHS source, and the quality difference between VHS and DVD is not enough for most people to actually care. It's also quite easy to remove commercials, and in fact it's even easier to just fast-forward through them or otherwise ignore them. My rights as a consumer allow me to ignore any part of the content being provided to me, and it doesn't matter how I do it.

      Our laws absolutely do not need to change. Unauthorized selling or other distribution of copyrighted works is already illegal. Loaning a taped copy of last nights episode of ER to my mother is not, nor should it ever be, which is exactly what this bill is trying to do. Making 1000 copies and handing them out to random people on the street (or uploading it to the internet and similarly giving it to thousand s of random people) is already covered by current copyright law, and there is no need for further law in that area.

      With DVD or like technology, shows can be uploaded online with ease, carried around, played on your work computer, etc.

      And what is wrong with that? If I purchased a DVD, I should be able to watch it wherever, whenever, however, and on whatever equipment I choose. I have paid for that right by purchasing the DVD. If it's a broadcast show which I have recorded, I have purchased that right by allowing the broadcaster to use a public resource, the available broadcast spectrum, to do so. That said broadcaster has become dependent upon advertising money to maintain his business is in no way relevant to the basic agreement between the broadcaster and the public. For a cable providor to claim that I don't have those rights is even more absurd since I'm directly paying for the delivery of that content. For a digital satalite providor to make those claims is the height of hypocracy, since they are charging me for delivery over the above mentioned public resource.

      I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It may be that pretty soon you can't let anyone else listen to a CD you bought.

      How can you not know that that is a bad thing? Have you really been so taken in by all the straw men the content industry has been throwing about?

      These folks are trying to legislate themselves out of the laws of supply and demand, and that truely is ridiculous.

      • I never said the technology wasn't here at the moment. But lets face it, you won't see my grandma popping a DVD in her recording, taping all her favorite shows (and programming it to ignore commercials), and then watching it later, at least not for a while yet. Hence why I said 'mainstream'. And of course I wasn't referring to watching DVDs you purchased at work, I was referring to taped shows burned onto DVD, as an example, and personally I see nothing wrong with being able to watch them at work, at least per what I say below.

        Also, I disagree about what you say regarding purchasing cable and satellite and the like. You are not paying for a hard copy or the rights to the show you are watching; you are only paying for the priveledge of viewing it.

        To be perfectly fair, if I pay my cable bill, and tape one of the shows, I should have the right to watch the show whenever I want. However, I don't have the right to watch it and then show it to someone else who doesn't pay for cable. That is stealing, technically, since two people are watching something that only one paid to see. Of course, if I were to give it to a friend without watching it, then that should be ok.

        This is my own personal view on it. Of course we all tape shows and let other people watch them, and for the most part it is harmless and doesn't really affect the television/movie industry. But that doesn't make it right. An analogy to your arguement would be that since I bought this software, I should be able to let a friend of mine use it, since after all I paid for it and should be able to do what I want with it, right?

        • I never said the technology wasn't here at the moment. But lets face it, you won't see my grandma popping a DVD in her recording, taping all her favorite shows (and programming it to ignore commercials), and then watching it later, at least not for a while yet. Hence why I said 'mainstream'. And of course I wasn't referring to watching DVDs you purchased at work, I was referring to taped shows burned onto DVD, as an example, and personally I see nothing wrong with being able to watch them at work, at least per what I say below.

          Part of my problem with your statements is that you are differentiating between VHS and DVD, and there is no funtional difference. The legal framework is the same, regardless of the technology used. If your gandmother does that with VHS, it is legally and functionally no different from if she were doing the same thing with DVD.

          You are not paying for a hard copy or the rights to the show you are watching; you are only paying for the priveledge of viewing it.

          According to the Supreme Court, I don't have to pay for those rights. The right to view includes the right to make a hard copy for personal uses, which include time and space shifting (watching it later or taking it over to a freinds house to watch it).

          However, I don't have the right to watch it and then show it to someone else who doesn't pay for cable. That is stealing, technically, since two people are watching something that only one paid to see.

          No, it is not stealing. Your cable contract is quite similar to a site license in many respects, which is why you can have multiple TVs hooked up without having to pay extra (AT+T especially advertises this as a feature). It doesn't matter how many people are in your house. It is not illegal for you to invite your friend over to watch the show with you, nor is it illegal to record the program, nor is it illegal to show your friend your recorded copy.

          Uploading it to the internet is a different story, since that is distribution. Distribution is not a fair use right, but everything else we're talking about is.

          This is my own personal view on it. Of course we all tape shows and let other people watch them, and for the most part it is harmless and doesn't really affect the television/movie industry. But that doesn't make it right.

          It is right, and it is legal as well. These are the rights granted by Fair Use. Copyright is not a natural right, it is a temporary right granted to the rights holder by society, and fair use is the return society gets for granting that right. Without fair use and the passage of the work into the public domain after a limited time (both of which the content industry are trying to remove with the current atempts to change copyright law), there is no benefit to society for granting copyright, and thus there is no reason to grant it.

          It is unfortunate that you are so willing to deny yourself the rights delineated in the Constitution, the law, and the legal precident of our nation.

  • by maynard-lag ( 235813 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:03AM (#3870908)
    Here's a link to the google cached version of the washington post story since the Washington Post seems to have fouled up their website:

    click here [216.239.39.100] for the google cached version of this story. Which apparently appeared in the Washington Post on May 6, 2002.
  • by Steve B ( 42864 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:08AM (#3870936)
    "The biggest impediment to more licensed, lawful services online is piracy, and that's why he is pushing his peer-to-peer bill," Smith said.

    Actually, there are several much larger impediments, namely: 1)most consumers find the existing system of buying/renting videos to be good enough, and 2)lack of reliable broadband availability.

  • Length of Copyright (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:10AM (#3870951) Journal
    What bothers me is the length of existing copyrights. This has been extended so many times it no longer has meaning.

    Copyright, when the U.S. was founded back in the late 1700s, was 20 years. Keep in mind that publishing and distributing a book was a major undertaking. It could take YEARS for copies in any number to make it from Atlanta to New York. Distribution was a NIGHTMARE.

    Now, copyrighted material can be commercially exploited by the author/publisher (rights holder) mere SECONDS after publication. Movies routinely open on 3,000+ screen; books have million-copy runs; CDs and DVDs sell hundreds of thousands in a single day. It has gotten unimaginably easier for the rights-holder to capitalize on the product.

    Yet, copyright has been lengthened to absurd limits. "Life of the author + x years", with X changing depending on if it is a "work for hire" or not.

    I would be open to giving the copyright-holders rights along what the mentioned bill outlines, if the rights-holders would be open to reducing terms of copyright to something 30 years NON-EXTENDABLE.
    • Yes, the whole mess with the current system was created because the copyright cartel has perverted traditional copyright law. The intial comment with the story Congress is making an effort to reconcile traditional copyright law with the realities of digital copying just shows how far the real pirates (Hollywood) have succeeded in framing the debate.

      Consider "traditional" copyright law:
      * Copyright restrictions only applied to publishers.
      * The length of copyright was 14 years and could only be held by the author not the publisher.
      * Copyrights could be renewed once for an additional 14 years for a few.
      * Copyrights could not be transferred, not even to one's heirs.
      * To receive a copyright, an archival copy was required to be sent to the Library of Congress.
      * Copyright did not apply any grant to derivative works.
      * Copyright did not apply to public speeches, music (the notes not the words), and a whole host of things it now covers.

      So we're in a situation where copyright has become a grant to cartels with no quid pro quo. The publishers are no longer even required to deposit sources with the Library of Congress, so they can receive copyright on films, embargo the product after it's first few runs, and before the lengthy term expires the original doesn't even exist (defeating the entire purpose of copyright in establishing a public repository of knowledge).

      The extension of copyright to derivitive works coupled with the lengthy terms has allowed publishers to amass portfolios that cover the entire landscape of popular culture. While Hollywood likes to complain against "government regulation" it couldn't survive in it's current form in a truly capitlist competative environment. George Lucas is insulated from competition. He can produce 'Attack of the Clones' without any worry about competition because he can resort to the heavy hand of government to censor any alternative 'Star Wars' story. Traditional copyright law would protect that first publication only for the sole purpose that it would encourage alternate and competiting stories.

      Public officials, corporations, and even religions (Scientology) have used the perversion of copyright law to outright censor political speech. A public speech or statement should be just that public and traditional copyright law would never allow Martin Luther King's heirs to extort those wishing only display history, nor would it allow current politicans to censor their opponents by prohibiting the rebroadcast of speeches seen on CSPAN.
  • About webcasters being able to stream : "if they ink a deal with the record companies." Is there anything in this bill requiring the record companies to deal with them? How much will these "deals" cost the webcasters? And will the RIAA play ball? I don't think this bill would help webcasters much, let alone be good for consumers. Consumers vs. customers... The RIAA just takes your consumption for granted and wants to keep it that way, guys, they're not out to win over new customers.
  • Not to be a raging cynic, but you can tell where it's end up based on the money behind it. Where's the money? It's in favor of limiting fair use and protecting the revenue streams of big corporations. I can tell you this, it will go nowhere positive.
  • Right now, you have the following situation:
    Artist A created song B which is a probable hit.
    He then sell all rights for that song
    to some syndicate C for a fixed sum.
    Then for all that A1 A2 ... An artists, copyright
    on songs will be at C and they will care not of fair use or other stuff or...
    Imagine situation, when by law they cannot sell more than 50% of their rights on song.
    It means that they have direct decisions on how their material will be used. It will be much fairer to them and society.
    • It means that they have direct decisions on how their material will be used. It will be much fairer to them and society.
      They have direct decisions already, and they choose to sell it.

      Whats the big deal?

      So, basically, what you want, is to take away artists rights in order to give them back to them, but not really.


      Thats not a good idea.
  • by st0rmshad0w ( 412661 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:24AM (#3871036)
    All of this is a total rehash of the printing press.

    Years ago there was no mass publishing, information could be tightly controlled, accessable by only those with the books, or access to them, or those with the sizable sum necessary to pay a scribe to copy one.

    Along comes Gutenberg and his printing press, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly the cost of reproducing data decreases, consequently it costs less to purchase as well, so there are more who can afford it. The Powers That Be (PTB) freak out completely, and begin to exert all manner of controls over the presses and the publishers.

    After some time the PTB settle on a concept called copyright. Which was ok at the time, presses were still relatively rare and pricey, and it helped apease the small number of authors and scribes who were upset. But more importantly it allowed the PTB to control to some extent the dispersal of information.

    Hop forward to today, now everyone it seems has their own press in the form of a PC, the PTB flip again, because their former solution is basically obsolete, no matter what the seem to try to adapt the system. Creators and publishers are up in arms again, but what can be done.

    I haven't a clue where this will settle, but I do have a feeling that I'm not going to like it. Time to begin hoarding old hardware.
    • I always wonder why all the people who talk about the new age of media always forget the typewriter. The typewriter has at least as much to do with the dissemination of information as the press. Afterall presses are expensive, complicated and controlled by restrictive governments. Typewriters and for that matter fax machines are not. The typewriter gave the grass roots movements the ability to distribute their information under the radar.

      At any rate my point is that much of this paranoia about restrictive use I think will result in nothing because of the same reasons. If we're going to outlaw the PC, more or less as a vehicle for information dissemination then we would already outlawed the typewriter.
      • I always wonder why all the people who talk about the new age of media always forget the typewriter. The typewriter has at least as much to do with the dissemination of information as the press. Afterall presses are expensive, complicated and controlled by restrictive governments. Typewriters and for that matter fax machines are not.

        Typwriters however do not change the publishing landscape appreciably. That is why they are seldom brought up.

        The printing press fundamentally changed how information flows. The British Crown, in response, developed the concept of copyright, which created controllable publishing monopolies upon which the crown could excersize whatever pressures it needed to insure only "approved" texts were published, and any unapproved publishers were dealt with harshly (even drawn and quartered in one instance).

        Artists "rights" were not any part of the creation of copyright, contrary to popular myth which modern publishers continue to propogate rather shamelessly.

        This is why modern copyright favors publishers so much, at the direct expense of artists and at an even greater expense to consumers. Copyright was designed to facilitate censorship and to benefit publishers who played the game, while eradicating those who did not. Authors, and whatever "rights" to their work they might have been entitled to, were not even a consideration.

        Artists intellectual property "rights" were appended later, as an afterthought, in order to deflect growing criticism of the copyright monopolies of the day. It succeeded brilliantly, so much so that publishers kept their advantages, the crown kept its ability to excersize censorship pretty much at will, and artists were thrown a meager bone that, history has shown, really didn't protect them all that much. Even America's founding fathers, who in many respects were quite wise, bought this deception hook, line, and sinker, and enshrined it into the American consitution.

        Still, even a little of something was better than nothing, so we have the ironic situation in which an entire legal regime is designed to exploit artists and their fans, while empowering middlemen such as publishers and facilitate methods by which governments (and today large corporations) can excersize editorial pressures often resulting in what amounts to censorship, and many artists foolishly support such a system because they can't think of anything better. Their publishers (the recording industry, movie studios, etc. are delighted with the state of affairs, or at least were, until the internet made publishing a quantum leap easier and some artists started discovering that they no longer needed the middlemen.

        Enter the current efforts to force creative people back onto the couch by turning the internet into just another cable channel.

        Typewriters didn't empower authors into becoming their own publishers, indeed they didn't impact publishing signficantly at all. The Internet did, which is why government and old guard publishers like the MPAA and RIAA are conspiring to neuter it, perminantly.

        Unfortunately it isn't at all paranoid to fear these efforts, much less to point them out and publicize them as widely as possible ... because the ramifications to all of us who use and enjoy the internet are profound, and in some ways (in a rhetorical sense) quite apocolyptic.
        • This is why modern copyright favors publishers so much, at the direct expense of artists and at an even greater expense to consumers

          What do you mean? Surely what gives (and has given) publishers more power than artists is that they have the means of reproduction and generally more money than the artists. The artists have historically had little choice if they wanted to get published than to agree to unpleasant contracts. What does copyright law contribute to this and how could it be changed to make life easier for the artists (who still would have to go to someone for their printing/publication/distribution etc)?

          TWW

  • by Krieger ( 7750 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @11:43AM (#3871162) Homepage
    Why is it that commericial interests are so desperate to stop us from time-shifting and space shifting products that we have bought? (I know, because they want more of our money, but still...) There are so many good products or even niche audiences that never get served by corporate interests because they don't represent a sizeable enough population to warrant a mass release of a tv show.

    Consider the simple provision of no longer allowing people to tape a show and lend it to a friend. Unbelieveable! I can think of many times that I've simply forgotten to record a show, and really want to see it, but it would be illegal for me to request it from a friend as that would now be copyright infringement. I suppose I could wait for the five or more years to see it in syndication (if it gets syndicated) or buy the DVD or VHS tape (if they bother to release it.)

    I think a fair amount of the problem is simply access to the content. Companies are stricting controlling access to all of their "content", even if it is pure drivel that only rapid fanatics would be interested in. It strikes me that any provision to disallow the simple sharing of tapes should also be accompanied by some kind of compulsory license on the content. If they want to be able to restrict it's dissemenation then they also need to make it available at a reasonable price. For example consider all of the "crap" DVDs that get sold at Walmart. Wouldn't a couple of episodes of Red Dwarf or MST3K be worth approximately the same as say the $10 copy of Excalibur?

    People want content, companies want money. People don't want to be forced into a limited pay-per use society, despite the fact that companies desperately want that, because it allows them to help crippled business models limp along for another few years. I'm glad to see that Universal is potentially getting it right, finally. [sfgate.com]

    Fair use seems to be such a straight-forward thing. I have written my representatives several times about this. I can only hope that they will support Boucher in his attempts to straighten things out fairly. Though even he does occassionally stray from being our consumer protectionist champion.

    • Fair use seems to be such a straight-forward thing. I have written my representatives several times about this.

      I hope you have more luck than I do. I've written to my reps several times too. I always get the same tripe back in response. They understand my interest in copyright, but they feel that copyright is what makes the world go round and it must be strengthened and protected at all costs. Sorry, have a nice day.

      I live in Texas,and I get the same response from both senators, as well as my rep. I just got the response from a letter I wrote a few months ago to Kay Bailey Hutchison. Same drivel. What's more frustrating is that I didn't even vote for these people, so not voting for them again doesn't seem like a real recourse. What's even worse is that the candidates that I did vote for didn't have a chance anyway. But I wasn't going to vote either democrat or republican because the candidates on both sides were just as bad.

      • That's pretty much what I get, though I will at least give some of my representatives the credit they deserve. The phrase they typically use is "Copyright protects valuable interests." Some even go as far as saying that they're interested in protecting fair use rights, but not most.

        About the only other thing I can suggest is to call and talk to the staffer that handles copyright issues. And/or go talk to them at your local office. They might be more impressed if they see you and you have a chance to talk with them about it.

        Of course it's best to avoid the but I'm 1337 and need to w4r3z everything POV. Somehow I don't think they're sympathetic to that...
  • Reconcile? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:07PM (#3871338) Homepage
    Congress is making an effort to reconcile traditional copyright law with the realities of digital copying; there's no telling whether the end product will be something tolerable or not.

    Consider me a troll or whatever. I'm just honestly looking for a logical argument that somehow copyright law needs to be adjusted because the medium has changed.

    Under prior law, copying works without due authorization has been illegal and punishable by fine and/or imprisonment.

    How does new and proposed law change that fact?

    As nearly as I can see, new law seeks only to take away our rights to secure our purchases with backup or to transfer medium. It also seeks to control which devices can access the media the works are published on.

    I find this to be unfair and a strike against innovation and the free market. It also further removes the classic "american tinker" that this country's industry and strength came from.

    I guess I'm deviating from my original quesiton quite a bit. So to restate the question: How does new and proposed law become necessary simply because new media is available for publication?
  • Honestly. I want the media companies to go through and legislate the living hell out of their product. Media these days is garbage. The average people in this society who are not paying attention to this take media for granted. The consumer knows it's crap it's just he/she is to lazy to do something else. Put a price tag on it that is too high or make its use contradict common sense (DVIX) and watch it die a humiliating death in the market. Truth is guys that cable television and broadband internet price/value ratio is already seriously comprimised. Raising the prices of said media and/or putting stupid restrictions on their use will kill it.

    How many average internet users do you think could accept just having "always on" internet access which you could do whatever you want with that was no faster than 128K but cost less than $20/month. Is there anything on the net besides downloading movies and music illegally that requires the use of signifigantly more bandwidth for the average user (not Linux users downloading isos)?

    If you think that the future of on demand broadcast media is going to make your subscription to cable/SAT TV any cheaper you are seriously mistaken. You are going to pay more to watch even flashier advertisments and even worse content. Just like it is now when you go to see a movie in the theaters.

    Let them do their thing. Sure it will destroy the internet as we know it however it will also take alot of those meglamaniac companies with them or atleast stigmatize them to the point where they withdraw from said market. You see these companies need to be hurt so bad by the consumer that they learn to not take them for granted. Let them come, It wont be just the geeks telling them to fuck off but the rest of the working class of America as well.

    Peter

  • What do we get out of this bill?

    NOTHING.

    This isn't a matter of wait and see, the bill stinks so badly that even the sponsors claim to oppose it.

    The Webcaster exemption is meaningless unless legislation is passed that overrides the Library of Congress CARP decision that makes Webcasting financially impossible for any US-based operation. Don't expect the bill to have this provision added, it was not written for our benefit either as consumers or as content distributors

    Unfortunately, this is a draft, so there is no bill number we can add to this to so we can tell our Congresscritters which bill we want dumped into the bitbucket. Yet.

    What can we do?

    When the bill we don't want becomes available, we need to contact our Congressmen and Senators and tell them that WE DO NOT WANT IT. We need to tell our Congressman and Senators to VOTE YES on Rick Boucher's Music Online Competition Act [loc.gov] .

    The best way to do this is with a fax gateway set up specifically to enable us and anyone else who's interested to easily contact our elected representatives. When it becomes available, we then need to point, click, and make our points known.

    Letters are obsolete in this context. Due to worry about anthrax, they are going through extensive decontamination and a letter might take months to get there if it shows up at all. Phone calls are good, but this works best because it's easy for someone to casually participate. What we need are hundreds of thousands of contacts between us and our elected representatives, and it's been proven that this works.

    The ACLU uses this approach and it frequently works, despite the unpopularity of the ACLU itself and civil liberties in general.

    Who lives in Washington,DC who is willing to dedicate a telephone line to this and is willing to maintain a fax server limited to local calls within the DC area?

    The software required to run a Web-to-fax gateway already exists, check http://www.tpc.int [tpc.int] for more information. The site seems to be down right now. If it doesn't come back up, there are other possibilities. Or start an Open Source project at Sourceforge and write one.

    Given the basic gateway software, a front end is needed that does what we need to do.

    The main requirement is that it allow users to submit their zip codes and automatically return a response that will direct their faxes with our canned message and anything users want to add to the fax number corresponding to their Congresscritter.

    The ACLU has this kind of setup that should be easy to duplicate. To see the user interface, click here [aclu.org] and enter your zip code. Go through with the rest of the process if you agree with what they want public support for, but the important part is to see how such a thing works.

    The hardest part is gathering the list of several hundred fax numbers. While there is such a list, it's a couple of years old and needs updating before it is used. Fixing this just takes being willing to put in a few hours comparing the list against the current list of Congresscritters and going to individual web pages for new additions to the list.

    Based on the previous performance of the geek community, The Register says essentially that we as a community are too stupid to mobilize to cover our own asses [theregister.co.uk],preferring the practice of pure Libertarian cult dogma to any approach that can work in the real world. Maybe they're right. I'm writing this in case they aren't.

    Is our freedom worth a spare server, the price of a phone line, a bit of code writing, and being willing to point and click a few times as these bills hit various points in the legislative process?

    It's up to you now. If The Register is right, and we can't mobilize to protect ourselves, we don't deserve to be free and we don't deserve to be able to use our computers and the Net we will instead of as appliances whose posssiblities are limited to what Hollywood, the Feds, and Microsoft give us permission for.

  • This is still just a bill. Look at all the names on the proposal, and write to those congressmen. They will not know what we think about these issues unless we tell them. Snail Mail may never get there, and e-mail can be easily ignored. from my own experience, faxing them is the best way. The fax numbers of the congressmen involved should be published at congress.org. Read more about fair use, and digital music at dontbuycds.org

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