Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) has emerged as a Congressional power broker on issues involving intellectual property and copyrights. He has advocated the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act (DMCRA), proposed legislation that would guarantee “fair use” of electronic media even in cases where encryption has been used to lock content.
In a recent op-ed article for CNET Networks, Boucher suggested a compromise for the broadcast flag being sought by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Boucher suggested that if the MPAA expects Congress to ratify a rule that would limit the ability of ordinary consumers to share lawfully acquired digital broadcast television programs with one another, then it shouldn’t be surprised if Congress insists that the MPAA accept in return a restoration of the fair use rights taken from consumers through the enactment of the DMCA.
“As crafted, the FCC’s broadcast flag rule recognized the right of consumers to share lawfully acquired digital broadcast content within their homes. But it also would have made it illegal for my staff to send a digital broadcast news clip from my district office to my Washington, D.C., office via the Internet. It would have precluded a library from sharing with a patron via the Internet excerpts from a digitally broadcast public affairs program. And it would have limited the ability of teachers to use material from digitally broadcast programs when engaged in distance education with students in rural areas —the very kind of activity Congress authorized in the TEACH Act,” Boucher wrote.
Given these restrictions on traditional fair use activities, Boucher said he expected that members of Congress will think twice simply ratifying the FCC’s broadcast flag rule. A fair use component of the policy could make the flag fly.