Washington, D.C. - Congressmen Rick Boucher (D-VA) and John Doolittle (R-CA) introduced proposed legislation aimed at amending the Digital Millennium Copy Right Act (DMCA) to protect consumers' Fair Use rights to copyrighted content on digital media.
Called the Digital Media Consumer Rights' Act, the bill was announced one week after a House Commerce Committee public hearing on draft language for possible legislation on the digital television transition.
The congressmen said consumer Fair Use rights of content on digital media "are severely threatened."
"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," Boucher stated at a press conference announcing the bill. "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."
The DMCA was passed in 1998 "at the behest of motion picture studios, the recording industry, and book publishers," the congressman said.
The bill seeks to change two key provisions of the 1998 law, which prohibited the circumvention of a technical protection measure that restricted access to a copyrighted work even for Fair Use purposes.
The new bill introduced would limit the scope of the DMCA to circumvention for the purpose of copyright infringement, while enabling copying copy righted content for Fair Use rights.
"We believe it is entirely proper to outlaw circumvention for the purpose of copyright infringement; however, a person who is circumventing a technical measure solely for the purpose of using that material under classic Fair Use principles should be free to do so," Doolittle said.
The Bill would also amend the provisions of the 1998 law that prohibit the manufacture, distribution or sale of technology that enables circumvention of the protection measures.
The congressmen said that under the current law, trafficking in those measures is a crime if the technology was primarily designed to be used for copyright infringement, which they feel is "too subjective."
The Boucher-Doolittle bill would instead focus on whether or not the technology had substantial non-infringing uses.
"If the technology is capable of substantial non-infringing use, the manufacture, distribution, and sale of the product would be lawful under the bill they have sponsored," according to a prepared statement.
Additionally, the congressmen want the Federal Trade Commission to promulgate a regulation requiring that "copy protected CDs" be properly labeled.
"The few copy protected CDs which have been introduced into the U.S. market to date are inadequately labeled and create broad consumer confusion," Boucher said.
"We are not proposing to outlaw the introduction of copy protected CDs. We, however, want to ensure that if copy protected CDs are introduced in larger volumes, consumers will know what they are buying," Doolittle added.
Companies who appeared at the press conference in support of the measure included: Intel, Verizon, Philips, Sun Microsystems, Gateway, the CEA.
Other trade organizations showing support included: the American Library Association, the American Association of Universities, the Digital Future Coalition, the Consumers Union, the Home Recording Rights Coalition, Public Knowledge and others.
Because on a short time remains in the current congressional session, the congressmen said they announced the bill in "staking out a position on what is certain to be a hotly-debated topic" when the next Congress convenes in January.