EFF: Fight Restrictions On How You Use Digital Media

Feb 28th, 2007 | By | Category: Digital Music, General

U.S. Representatives Rick Boucher and John Doolittle have proposed the FAIR USE Act [PDF], which would remove some of the limitations on innovation and fair use that the entertainment has used (and many would say, abused) over the last few years. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is calling on people to tell Congress to help restore balance in copyright now.

Technology companies play a game of Russian roulette whenever they create products with both infringing and non-infringing uses. Current “secondary liability” standards don’t provide enough certainty, and if innovators guess wrong, they can be hit with statutory damages as high as $30,000 per work infringed.

When it comes to mass-market products like the iPod or TiVo, damages could run into the trillions of dollars — more than enough to bankrupt anyone from the smallest start-ups to the biggest companies.

The FAIR USE Act would limit the availability of statutory damages for secondary liability and allow innovators to make more reasonable business decisions about manageable levels of legal risk. Meanwhile, copyright owners could still get injunctions and actual damages for harm suffered, putting them in no worse a position than civil litigants in most other areas.

The bill would also codify the Supreme Court’s “Betamax doctrine” as it pertains to hardware devices, making clear that manufacturers cannot be held liable based on the design of technologies with substantial non-infringing uses.

Finally, the bill would loosen the grip of the DMCA, which restricts circumvention of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions even for lawful uses. The FAIR Use Act adds 12 exemptions, including the ability to circumvent for classic fair use purposes like news reporting, research, commentary, and criticism.

For more information, read the bill here, and check out this EFF article discussing statutory damages and proposing their elimination in secondary liability cases.

via EFF

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