RIAA v. Fair Use Act

According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA):

"The DMCA has enabled consumers to enjoy creative works through popular new technologies," the RIAA said in a statement. "The DVD, iPod and the iTunes Music Store can all be traced to the DMCA. Online games, on-demand movies, e-books, online libraries, and many other services are coming to market because of a secure environment rooted in the DMCA’s protections."

RIAA slams FAIR USE Act by Eric Bangeman, Ars Technica, 2/28/2007 4:14:26 PM, by Eric Bangeman

Eric Bangeman points out that the DVD actually precedes the DMCA, but "secure" is more or less accurate. Secure in the sense that a traditional newspaper is secure: those pesky readers can’t alter it; they have to read it as they get it. Kind of like the old AT&T telephone network before the Carterfone decision let other companies attach equipment to it. That decision led to mobile phones, the Internet, and other benefits.

Anyway, the current RIAA complaint is over the so-called Fair Use Act introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives 27 Feb 2007 by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA). This bill would modify the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) slightly to bring it more in line with traditional U.S. fair use doctrine, letting users copy more for their own use.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is for the Fair Use Act. Which illustrates what I don’t like about RIAA’s approach to copying. protecting copyrights is a useful thing (as long as it somehow redounds to the benefit of the original artists, which is somewhat dubious with music as traditionally distributed in the U.S.). But RIAA uses the DMCA to sue grade school and college students and tries to force modifications to electronics that may only peripherally if ever be used for listening to commercial music or videos. Why should the relatively small recording industry or even the not very large motion picture industry be permitted to force modifications to equipment produced by the much larger electronics and computing industries, to the detriment of the public at large? That doesn’t seem like good risk management for everybody else, and probably not for RIAA, either, because a business model that requires such strenuous legal activity is probably a flawed business model that will be leapfrogged by something better. Some equipment manufacturers have already discovered it’s not good for their reputations. And history shows that the blockbuster and hit mentality of the movie and record industries has been superseded in the past.

Anyway, there’s another matter:

The RIAA also takes issue with the bill’s narrow exemptions to the DMCA. "Proponents of H.R. 1201 claim it legalizes hacking only for ‘noninfringing’ uses," reads the RIAA’s statement. "But as Congress recognized when it enacted the DMCA, the difference between hacking done for noninfringing purposes and hacking done to steal is impossible to determine and enforce. That’s why Congress created a review process that takes place every three years to determine whether fair uses of copyrighted works are in peril—and why Congress gave the power to the Librarian of Congress to take away DMCA protections in cases where fair use is in danger."

Ah, let’s demonize the problem by misusing the term hacking, which people like RIAA have turned into a scare word. And let’s trot out the wait-and-see argument. Meanwhile, Congress has the power to just change the law, which is what the Fair Use Act proposes to do.

Not change the DMCA enough, by, for example, repealing it, but somewhat, at least. It seems to me that more participants enabled by the Fair Use Act will lead to more innovation and creativity and thus more music and video, and that should be a good thing for everyone. Will it be good risk management for RIAA? Maybe not, but neither is RIAA’s current approach.


1 thought on “RIAA v. Fair Use Act

  1. Adam

    Oh come on! Just because the DVD preceeded the act, doesn’t mean that it didn’t enable it. Next you’re gonna say that the Mickey Mouse Copyright extension act didn’t get us more Elvis music.

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