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Big media wants bills for more punitive enforcement, new media, internet firms, and activists fight back

Many senior justices complain the copyright system in the U.S. is "broken", with the law struggling to deal with a new digital reality in which information is more easily shared.  

Software copyright is often used (or abused) to try to prevent customers from modifying (jailbreaking) devices they legally own -- actions that violate provisions of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) [PDF], which modified Title 17 of the U.S. Code.  Another topic of controversy is backup copies.  Industry officials argue that the DMCA is explicit -- no backups are allowed -- and insist customers should simply repurchase content if their physical media is damaged.  Copyright law has also been at time abused to take down legitimate websites, sometimes even as an anticompetitive tactic by rivals.

U.S. Copyright Office chief Maria Pallante called on "Congress to once again think big" and enact copyright reform, crafting "the next great copyright act."

Congress building
Congress is taking up copyright reform -- but which way will its reforms go is the pressing question. [Image Source: U.S. Congress]

At a celebration of World Intellectual Property Day at the Library of CongressU.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (D-Virg.) called on his House colleagues to heed the call, remarking:

The Internet has enabled copyright owners to make available their works to consumers around the world, but has also enabled others to do so without any compensation for copyright owners. Efforts to digitize our history so that all have access to it face questions about copyright ownership by those who are hard, if not impossible, to locate. There are concerns about statutory license and damage mechanisms.

Federal judges are forced to make decisions using laws that are difficult to apply today. Even the Copyright Office itself faces challenges in meeting the growing needs of its customers - the American public. ... The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age.

This may be a case of being careful what you wish for.  Big media has paid a tremendous amount of campaign donations to members of Congress.  For example, between 2005 and 2011 large media interests paid members of the U.S. Senate $86M USD -- roughly a tenth of all their campaign costs.

Bribe under table
Big media is slipping Congress loads of cash in hopes of more punitive copyright policy.
[Image Source: i-Sight]

Thus any copyright reform may come in the direction of furthering big media's dream goals, such as instituting stiff penalties for customers who use software to crack digital rights management and burn backup copies.  This is certainly one debate to watch closely in coming months.

As for Rep. Goodlatte, it's hard to tell where his interests lies.  He's received large donations from Google Inc. (GOOG) and Pandora Media Inc. (P) on one side of the fence, and from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) on the other side of the fence [source].  Thus he may be about as close to an unbiased party as you get in Congress these days, given that the special interest payouts (may) have balanced each other out.

Source: U.S. House Judiciary Committee





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If you think...
By villageidiotintern on 4/25/2013 12:55:24 PM , Rating: 3
copyright law is a cluster now wait until Congress fixes it.
Then you'll see a real charlie foxtrot.




RE: If you think...
By GotDiesel on 4/25/2013 1:17:46 PM , Rating: 4
quote"For example, between 2005 and 2011 large media interests paid members of the U.S. Senate $86M USD -- roughly a tenth of all their campaign costs."

politicians and public servants that accept "contributions" should be hanged for treason.


RE: If you think...
By mmatis on 4/25/13, Rating: -1
RE: If you think...
By Salisme on 4/25/2013 3:26:37 PM , Rating: 5
You start by disallowing corporations and special interest groups from making bribes...er I mean donations. You put a cap on what an individual is allowed to donate. Can't afford TV commercials? Oh well, they bend the truth and slander like its a Springer episode anyway. I'd be happy to see them go. Limited TV exposure has the opposite effect in that news stations are going to search out things to report because people who do not know what the internet is are going to rely on news coverage. Make the news stations go out and report instead of getting news fed to them, make them do their jobs. If they don't do their jobs, no one watches them. There are just as many reports about what Lindsey Lohan is doing this weekend as there was Obama election coverage. If the news can go out and invade some one's personal life that only freaks care about, they are more than capable of investing a politician. The news will report anything that gets them viewers. People being forced to watch news for information = ad revenue.

The rest of us tech savvy people can read blogs and visit websites that are a dime a dozen to start up.


RE: If you think...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/25/13, Rating: -1
RE: If you think...
By maugrimtr on 4/26/2013 10:54:19 AM , Rating: 1
What First Amendment rights are being taken up the ass by preventing corporations, shady special interest groups and completely anonymous SuperPACs from donating money to politicians (noting that indirect support should have a monetary value like any benefit-in-kind and/or bribe)?

Free speech, right? Corporations being perfectly normal natural persons entirely predicted by the Founded Fathers using their unrivaled access to the TARDIS.

Corporations are not people. They are not citizens. They have no voting rights. They should not be able to wield their cash like a club to override the will of the people. That's a perversion.

If we created a litmus test, it would be very simple. What would you do if it were discovered that big media were providing 20% of a politicians campaign funding? 50%? What about 90%? Does Free Speech for Corporations still hold up then?

Not in a free nation it won't... We'd take back the government in an armed uprising and give corporations a boot out of politics.


RE: If you think...
By timothyd97402 on 4/25/2013 4:49:42 PM , Rating: 2
Once upon a time there was a law against CORPORATE campaign donations. Only individual PEOPLE were allowed to contribute and then only so much.

There was your solution. A level playing field for all citizens to put their money where there mouth is. Too bad the Supreme Court tossed that Campaign Finance law a few years back.

As Mittens told us in his recent campaign, "corporations are people too, my friend".


RE: If you think...
By DT_Reader on 4/25/2013 3:43:02 PM , Rating: 3
Big media doesn't want tighter control over copying, they want tighter control over playback. Disney in particular want you to pay-per-view. It absolutely sickens them that they only get $15/DVD when they could get $1.30/viewing like RedBox does. Their big problem is enforcement - even Congress won't pass a law demanding a coin slot on every DVD player.


Basic changes
By Dorkyman on 4/25/2013 11:12:20 AM , Rating: 5
Copyright is basically ignored and mocked by an overwhelming percentage of the population because it is perceived as being unfairly stacked in favor of the holder.

Who hasn't laughed at the absurdity of seeing a restaurant server not being allowed to sing "Happy Birthday" to a customer because of potential copyright litigation?

The solution is obvious: copyright law should have the same protections as patent law, its first cousin. The creator has dibs for 20 years. After that, their creation belongs to the world.




RE: Basic changes
By Integral9 on 4/25/2013 11:53:28 AM , Rating: 2
And Warner Music is the current copyright troll.


Fools
By Ammohunt on 4/25/2013 11:26:10 AM , Rating: 2
Copyright owners really need to do some serious market research to get in touch with the consumers of their products. Examples such as Game of Thrones where HBO was happy to keep it an exclusive subscriber only to have is be the most pirated show in history. I feel the only reason it turned up on iTunes for the second season what because of that stigma and not because HBO had any modern idea of its market.

EA and giant entertainment software companies still refuse to believe their consumers do not want DRM Simcity anyone? There is also price point; $60 a game invites pirates or excludes a huge segment of casual gamers. Services such as Stem have proven that good games at an affordable price ~$30 builds market share and builds return customers and actually i feel discourages piracy i.e. why pirate a $10 game?. It also allows older copyright material to be re-monetized cheaply creating side revenue streams which ultimately can result in taking the stress off of always having to deliver a big named title.




RE: Fools
By HoosierEngineer5 on 4/25/2013 11:55:59 AM , Rating: 1
I won't allow any company to tell me if/when I can use any 'licenced' content I have purchased. In the last few years, I have purchased all my games from GOG.com.

I have had WAY too many problems with companies' DRM getting in the way of being able to use the content (that includes you, Valve). It's just not worth it to me.


RE: Fools
By bug77 on 4/25/2013 12:26:15 PM , Rating: 2
Eh, big media makes tons of money while they are allowed to control distribution. From their point of view, there's no reason to relinquish that control. The most profitable course of action is to maintain the status quo. And they're a business, not a charity, so...


If Congress is serious...
By DT_Reader on 4/25/2013 3:56:12 PM , Rating: 2
They can start with firmware. There's no way I'm a threat to Sony if I hack my toy dog. The fact that you could hack it is what drove sales; when Sony cracked down on that I lost all interest in owning one, and look - they don't make them anymore. Does anyone think they stopped making them because they were tired of earning money on that product line?

Cannon sells a ton (OK, maybe a half-ton) of cameras because there's dozens of web sites telling you how to hack them. The first kids to take pictures from 90 miles up for under $200 did it with a hacked Cannon camera. Cannon is smart enough to know not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, and the worst they'll do is void your warranty, as is their right.

We shouldn't have to learn the hard way to patronize the Cannons and shun the Sonys - the law should be on our side from the beginning.




By brucek2 on 4/25/2013 4:24:22 PM , Rating: 2
The Constitution had it right from the beginning -- the purpose of this law is to "promote the arts and sciences" and the mechanism is to give exclusive rights for a "limited time."

Somehow this smart, balanced approach has been corrupted. The "limited time" is all but out the window with rights lasting multiple generations. And the "promote" has become "make sure nearly all benefits accrue to business (even long after the artist or scientist is dead), and only to the people to the extent they consume in the manner chosen by the business, and pay the amount demanded by the business."

I think the goal ought to start with the citizens. Citizens are enriched by arts & sciences and its good that creators have incentives to pursue them. But the goal of the law should be to do just enough to encourage that pursuit, while also seeking to maximize the eventual distribution of all creations for the good of all.

Today digital distribution is mostly thought of for entertainment like music & movies. But over the next decades and generations, we'll have "burners" for more than just CDs and DVDs -- its not impossible we'll be able to "burn" clothes, medicine, basic goods, and who knows what else.

It could be the start of vastly improving the quality of life for all the globe -- but will we use it for that purpose, or will we insist on trying to keep the systems that were forged from the now-obsolete limits of a prior age?




Minor Correction
By bgdodobird on 4/25/2013 5:13:28 PM , Rating: 2
Bob Goodlatte is a Republican.

Otherwise, great read :-)




"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer













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