Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Media rights on Congressional front burner

Consumer rights over the use of digital media are shaping up to become one of the New Year’s most contentious issues in Congress. Now, new legislation has been introduced to counter the consumer restrictions advocated by Hollywood motion picture studios on fair use of digital media.

U.S. Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA), John Doolittle (R-CA), Spencer Bachus (R-AL) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) have introduced the proposed Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, legislation with the goal of protecting the fair use rights enjoyed by the public in the analog era. The bill would enable the consumers of digital media to make use of it in ways that enhance their personal convenience.

The new legislation (H.R. 107) is identical to that which Boucher and Doolittle introduced last fall in the previous Congress.

Maintaining that fair use rights are severely threatened with restrictions on digital media, the legislators propose amending the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was enacted in 1998, at the behest of motion picture studios, the recording industry and book publishers.

“The fair use doctrine is threatened today as never before. Historically, the nation’s copyright laws have reflected a carefully calibrated balance between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of the users of copyrighted material. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act dramatically tilted the copyright balance toward complete copyright protection at the expense of the Fair Use rights of the users of copyrighted material,” Boucher said.

“The re-introduced legislation will assure that consumers who purchase digital media can enjoy a broad range of uses of the media for their own convenience in a way which does not infringe the copyright in the work,” Boucher said.

The bill addresses two key provisions of the 1998 law that prohibit the circumvention of a technical protection measure guarding access to a copyrighted work even if the purpose of the circumvention is to exercise consumer fair use rights. The bill re-introduced this week would limit the scope of the prohibition to circumvention for the purpose of copyright infringement. Circumvention for the purpose of exercising fair use rights would be permitted under the legislation.

For more information on the proposed law visit www.house.gov/boucher/docs/dmca108.htm.

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