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Doing My Little Part
I got the call loud and clear: “Put up or Shut up”. So, I did. I contacted one of my Senators from the state of Washington, Maria Cantwell. She is a former executive from the folks who bring you Real Audio, and I felt that of the two Senators we have in this state, she would be in the best position to grasp the nuances of the legislation and of the concerns that many of us have. Below is the unedited text of her response to my letter:
Dear Mr. Sullivan:
Thank you for writing to express your views on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Enacted in 1998, the DMCA sought to achieve the appropriate balance between protecting copyrights and facilitating innovative technology. This law prohibits circumvention of technological protection measures and the trafficking of such technology. Thus, DMCA facilitates legitimate distribution of copyrighted work by allowing for the use of technological measures for the copyright holder and providing legal protections for those technological measures. Mr. Sklyarov is charged with violating this provision. This is a very complex issue and I will be closely monitoring this historic case.
Congress is in the process of reviewing whether these new provisions of copyright law impair the applicability of the "first sale doctrine" which provides that a purchaser of a work may transfer the purchased copy of that work with no further obligation to the copyright holder. The U.S. Copyright Office recommends Congress make no significant changes to this law right now.
We need to continue to encourage innovation in technology, but the intellectual property rights of inventors, artists, authors and musicians must also be protected. DMCA helps to meet both of these goals. Indeed, the pace of innovation requires diligence in maintaining the right balance. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over copyright issues, I will be very active on these issues and will keep your comments in mind.
In regard to private industry negotiations, I am hopeful that the market will find solutions that will bring the full range of musical offerings to the Internet and am encouraged when I see companies enter into online distribution agreements.
Thank you again for writing on this very important issue. Please feel free to contact me again in the future on this or any other issue.
United States Senator
As she states, this is a very complex issue. I wish that the reply had been a bit more opinionated, but I understand that a Senator must bide their time, particularly if they are new. I do feel that this issue is reaching a fever pitch, what with the proposed changes in the HDTV standard, the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA) and the copy protection currently being imposed on audio CDs all gaining attention in the media. Unfortunately, it looks like the entertainment industry is going to get even tougher restraints put into law, further diminishing our rights as consumers in regards to digital entertainment. There have been a few small victories by individual consumers, but there seems to be no groundswell in terms of class action. Hopefully more people will start contacting their representatives and voting with their wallets so an impact will be made.
The downside of that “Charley Pride” CD victory is that the scope of the decision was extremely narrow. The findings in that case will have no bearing on any other CD’s, except perhaps as a precedent in future lawsuits. However, maybe the smallest of victories can help start a trend.