Monday, October 03, 2005
COPYRIGHT: News story from 1998 about Digital Millenium Copyright Act
ISSUES TO CONSIDER: If you use a video recorder to duplicate a copyrighted
movie, are you breaking the law? Is the manufacturer of the iPOD (Apple)
breaking the law if the iPOD is used to play MP3 songs downloaded from a
website for free? (HINT: The Supreme Court finally addresses this issue
August 4, 1998, 3:10 p.m. PT
Congress clears copyright act
By Courtney Macavinta
Staff Writer, CNET NEWS.COM
In a landmark move, Congress passed legislation today to
safeguard copyrights for music, software, and written works on the
Internet and to outlaw technologies that can crack devices protecting
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was approved by a House voice
vote today. The act was passed by the Senate in May.
Both chambers will have to reach a compromise to iron out the
differences in the bills before the legislation is sent to President
Clinton for his signature.
The bill implements treaties signed at the World Intellectual Property
Organization's Geneva conference on digital information and copyrights
in December 1996.
"With the growth of electronic commerce having such a profound impact
on the economy, the [House] Commerce Committee has engaged in a
wide-ranging review of the subject," Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Virginia) said
today on the House floor.
"This bill strikes an appropriate balance between the goal of
promoting electronic commerce and the interests of copyright owners,"
The Net offers new, less expensive ways to sell and distribute
products, transactions at the core of the growing e-commerce
businesses of the software, movie, and music industries. Lobbyists and
proponents of the bill argued that it's now easier to share and sell
unauthorized copies of songs, computer applications, or books, and
that protections must be expanded online for copyrighted information
"Many countries around the world have not updated their laws to
protect creative works online and have been looking to the United
States for leadership," Robert Holleyman, president of the Business
Software Alliance, said in a statement. "We praise Congress for
providing that leadership today."
The bill passed by both chambers also carries a handful of safe
harbors that limit Net access providers' liability for copyright
infringements made by their customers.
However, a controversial provision that was not included in the WIPO
treaties makes it a crime in the United States to create or sell any
technology that could be used to break copyright protection devices,
such as encryption or digital watermarks. Violators could be charged
up to $2,500 per act of circumvention.
The House bill approved today permits cracking copyright protection
devices to conduct encryption research, but the Senate version doesn't
allow this activity. Critics say even with exemptions, the provision
could still hinder college students and programmers from decoding
encryption algorithms to test the strength of the data protection
"[The bill] fails to further recognize that encryption research is
simply one aspect of security research, and that research is different
from actual practice. While [the copyright act] may exempt encryption
research, it still criminalizes other crucial techniques used in
security research and practice," Purdue University computer science
professor Eugene Spafford stated in a letter to Congress members last
Friday, which was signed by 50 of the nation's top security
Copyright protection technologies also may be bypassed for the purpose
of product interoperability and to let people gain access to
personally identifiable information that a database company has
collected about them.
Libraries and educators argued that this "black box provision" would
let intellectual property owners build a "digital fence" around
material researchers can access under fair-use stipulations in
existing copyright law. The House version of the bill requires the
Commerce Department secretary to conduct a study to determine whether
fair-use access to copyrighted materials would be stifled by
technological barriers. The study would cover the first two years the
law would be in effect.
The treaties were adopted by 157 delegates at the WIPO's 1996
diplomatic conference. At that time, delegates removed language from
the treaties that would have made Internet service providers and
telephone carriers liable for copyright infringements that occur over
Also rejected by WIPO members was the so-called sui generis database
treaty, which would have allowed groups such as the NBA and
Lexis-Nexis to copyright information in their databases.
Still, U.S. lawmakers took their own action to help protect electronic
data repositories' cash cows. In May, the House passed Rep. Howard
Coble's (R-North Carolina) Collections of Information Antipiracy Act,
which would make it illegal to extract information from a database and
make it available elsewhere--if such an act would "harm" the database
company's current or potential business.
Furthermore, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects databases
as well, with some exceptions.
"In that portion of the bill, we have added a provision to preserve
the Securities and Exchange Commission's authority to ensure that the
public has full access to stock quotes," Rep. Bliley added. "This is
critical because some experts have described [this] as being 'as
necessary as oxygen' to investors. Thus, the commission may, in the
future, takes steps to improve public access to all market data,
including both delayed and real-time data."
Still, some contend new digital copyright legislation is unnecessary.
A two-year study for the U.S. Copyright Office released this month
concludes that, historically, intellectual property owners are too
vigilant in trying to protect their works when new technologies
emerge, and that laws are not the answer.
The author of the report, Trotter Hardy, said the U.S. Copyright Act
was revised in 1976 to be essentially technology-neutral, leaving it
up to the court system to interpret the law.
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