Everyone should know about three pieces of legislation which copyright
holders are trying to push through the lame duck session of the current U.S.
congress before it adjourns for the holidays.
The "Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act" (HR 3261)
would for the first time grant copyright protection to facts contained in
databases. It is being pushed by some large directory publishers. This would put
a lot of discographers out of business, not to mention comparison shopping
sites, and fact-gathering aids of all kinds. The "Induce Act" (S.2560) would
make it a crime to "induce" someone to violate copyright, even if that person
was not under your control or the violation was unknown to you. This might well
shut down this chat list. Fortunately there is significant opposition to both
A bill given a much better chance of passing is the "Intellectual Property
Protection Act" (HR 2391), an omnibus bill that gathers in once place a
Christmas tree of goodies for media companies. It would limit how libraries can make
available copyrighted material, restrict fair use, and even make it illegal
to skip commercials on video recordings! There is a lot of good information on
these bills at www.publicknowledge.org , which I highly recommend, including
a suggested letter you can send to your congressman (see below). If
politicians don't hear from us when these kinds of bills come up they stand a much
better chance of passing. I'm told the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (which
keeps old recordings out of the public domain until 2067) was passed by voice
vote at midnight!
Here's their proposed letter:
I write to you today to ask that you oppose the omnibus "Intellectual
Property Protection Act," both as a whole and in its parts, and ask that you not
allow it to come to the floor for a vote.
I believe that intellectual property plays a critical role in the United
States as a means of fostering both artistic expression and technological
innovation. However, the IPPA, which is comprised of a number of individual bills,
contains provisions that may harm my long-established rights as a legal user of
content. Additionally, the bill may harm the development of new technologies.
There are a number of sections of the bill that particularly concern me:
The Piracy Deterrence in Education Act (formerly H.R. 4077): This section
establishes "offering for distribution" as basis for criminal copyright
violation and "making available" for civil violation, regardless of whether there is
any distribution or copying, let alone infringement. This bill drastically
lowers the standards for what constitutes a criminal copyright violation. The
standards are far too vague and could include as targets for prosecution
material passively stored on computers or shared on networks.
The ART Act (formerly S. 1932): This is a bill that prohibits the
unauthorized use of a video camera in a movie theatre. While I do not support movie
bootlegging, I believe that under some limited circumstances the public needs the
fair use protections granted under traditional copyright law, which this bill
The Family Movie Act (formerly H.R. 4586): This bill was originally intended
to protect the my right to use technology to skip-over and mute parts of a
movie that my family may find objectionable-- a proposition which I fully
support. Unfortunately, the broadcasting industry and Hollywood added a section to
take away my right of skipping over ads in DVDs and recorded broadcasts with a
TiVo like device.
The PIRATE Act (formerly S. 2237): This bill would allow the Justice
Department to file civil suits against copyright infringers. Especially with the
record profits that the media industry is making, it doesn't seem appropriate
that I as a tax payer should have to fund a corporation's private right of
action. The Justice Department has even said it did not want this authority.
There is too much in "The Intellectual Property Protection Act" that harms
market innovation and my rights as a consumer. For the reasons above, I
respectfully ask that you oppose H.R. 2391.