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Entertainment and IT Leaders Appear at Senate Hearing on Protection of Creative Works

Yesterday, the United States Senate held a hearing entitled Competition, Innovation, and Public Policy in the Digital Age: Is the Marketplace Working to Protect Digital Creative Works?. Some of the statements made by the witnesses, such as Joe Kraus' statement are quite interesting, and worth reading. Joe Kraus was the founder of Excite and, recently, founder of DigitalConsumer.org Among other things, Kraus said:

This past Christmas I bought my dad a DVD player. Within two weeks I got a phone call. "Itís broken" he insisted. When I asked why, he said that he put a DVD in and as he had become accustomed to doing with his video tapes, when the movie previews came up, he went to skip through them. But now, the DVD player wouldnít let him. I told him that his DVD player wasnít broken but that existing law made it illegal to create a DVD player that would skip through content that the media companies flagged as "must watch". Needless to say he didnít know what I was talking about.

Read on for more information about the hearing, and our view of the government's role in the protection of creative works....

One of the most powerful points made by the witnesses representing the consumer viewpoint was that Congress has already made laws that conflict with previous legislation that it did not repeal. The entertainment industry is also attempting to use technological means to prevent the copying of Audio CDs for use on other devices, despite the fact that the Audio Home Recording Act makes such copies legal for personal use.

The founders of this country clearly intended copyright law to balance the rights of the author with the rights of the citizen to make "fair use" of a copyrighted work. We should not permit industries to change the bargain simply because a small percentage of the public is involved in piracy, and they have found a way to use the Internet to facilitate their activities.

Up to now, it appears that the Senate has focused on entertainment industry estimates of the economic losses attributable to piracy. The Senate also needs to consider the substantial infringement on consumer rights that proposed "solutions" to the industry's piracy problem would inflict upon people who have no intention of violating existing law.

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