Monday, October 03, 2005
COPYRIGHT: A digital clash of titans -- computer/electronics giants vs. entertainment industry
PUBLISHED: April 29, 1998
[Back] A Digital Clash of Titans
The consumer-electronics industry claims the entertainment biz is
trying to outlaw VCRs and home computers. The entertainment industry
says the electronics companies care more about protecting copyright
pirates than intellectual property.
At issue is the WIPO Copyright Treaties Implementation Act,
legislation supported by the entertainment industry that is supposed
to make it more difficult to violate copyright law in the digital era.
One provision of the bill, sponsored by Representative Howard Coble
(R-North Carolina), outlaws the sale of a device designed "primarily
for the circumvention" of copyright protection.
Both the entertainment and the software industries are counting on
sophisticated encryption technologies to protect their works in a
digital era where it is easy to produce perfect copies of works and
distribute them worldwide via the Internet.
But the Home Recording Rights Coalition insists that the bill, as it
is now written, would outlaw the currently common practice of taping
copyrighted material for home use. It also claims that the bill would
ban personal computers because they have the ability to download and
copy material from the Internet.
"We believe that is exactly what this legislation will do," said
Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association spokesman Jonathon
Thompson. After the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that
included the language, the Home Recording Rights Coalition began
running print ads stating its claim that the legislation would outlaw
VCRs and PCs. The Home Recording Rights Coalition is chaired by Gary
Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Manufacturing
Association, and is funded by consumer electronics companies.
In response, the Creative Incentive Coalition, a group funded by
software-makers such as Microsoft and entertainment companies
including Time Warner and Viacom, insists that the bill will do
nothing that affects VCRs or home computers. And Creative Incentive
began running its own ads stating bluntly in large letters, "They're
wrong." The ad goes on to say that "Nothing in the legislation will
change or make illegal the home recording and research Americans now
enjoy." The ad also declares, "Only illegitimate devices that
illegally invade electronically protected material would be outlawed."
The dispute will come to a head on Thursday when the Senate Judiciary
Committee is expected to take up the issue. If the consumer
electronics industry fails to win headway, it may begin campaigning
against the legislation, which must be passed in order for the US to
ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty. That
treaty would establish global protections for copyrighted material on
the Internet and is enthusiastically supported by the entertainment,
publishing, and software industries.
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