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The Senate Judiciary Hearings: 'Me! -- No, Me! -- NO! ALL OF US!'
By Janet Fisher, Goodnight Kiss Music
(more articles from this author)
2001-04-09
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All the following quotes are from testimony given before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on "Online Entertainment and Copyright Law: Coming Soon to a Digital Device Near You" April 3, 2001.

If all the speeches from the judiciary hearings of late have shown us one thing, it's that each party has, at heart, its own special interest (that is not to say it's all SELFISH interest, in many cases, it's self-preservation).

The Artists want royalty standards and protections akin to actor-members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), along with other considerations.

Don Henley (Major Label Recording Artist):
"... One way to even this playing field would be for Congress to consider a federal seven-year term, much like the law that helped movie actors gain free agency in California. ..."

The Consumers Union wants access, and apparently doesn't want the current law abolished, but feel that selected elements should be expanded to fit consumer wants now.

Sally Greenberg (Senior Product Safety Counsel, Consumers Union Washington, DC Office):
"...We urge this Committee use these models to authorize a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, or CARP, to resolve the disputes over the issue of music royalties between Napster and other peer-to-peer online service, and the recording industry. We also urge the panel to set a time limit in the law to finalize royalties, so that the parties are not debating the issue 3 years down the road, with consumers still left out in the cold. ..."

The Record Labels need to protect their investments.

Ken Berry (President and CEO, EMI RecordedMusic):
"... Some of the companies to whom we have licensed our rights are finding it difficult to build viable businesses in an environment dominated by the unlawful free downloading of our entire catalogue. Mr. Chairman, it is impossible for legitimate innovators to compete with those who say the rules shouldn't apply to them. ..."

The RIAA continues its campaign to recognize the laws in place.

Hillary Rosen (President and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America):
"... Innovation is produced most quickly when intellectual property is protected most rigorously. We stand ready to defend those principles - not just for ourselves but for all of the partners in the chain of a legitimate digital music business. ..."

The Online Music Entrepreneur "sharing" sites also had a say:

Hank Barry (Interim CEO, Napster):
"... The question before us today ˆ from all of our very different perspectives and responsibilities -- is what does it take to make music on the Internet a fair and profitable business. To realize this goal, I believe it will take an Act of Congress ˆ a change to the laws to provide a compulsory license for the transmission of music over the Internet. ..."

Robin Richards (President MP3.COM, Inc.):
"... It is simply not right for the benefits of a statutory compulsory license enacted by Congress to be denied to on-line music providers because no rates or terms have been established for its use. ..."

The Tech Sector remind us that the system is currently available.

Gerald W. Kearby (President and Chief Executive Officer Liquid Audio, Inc.):
"... Our four-part digital music security solution protects music on the Internet today. ..." And, "Now, it is incumbent upon all of us to demonstrate that copyright can be respected and music can be made accessible in every format, in every home, in every car and on every portable device. We do not believe that all, or even the vast majority of, users of illegitimate music download systems are "cybershoplifters" at heart. We believe consumers will embrace and pay for services that are legitimate, reasonably priced and easy to use. ..."

The Copyright Holders want their current royalty protections enforced against pirates online.

Edward P. Murphy (President and Chief Executive Officer National Music Publishers‚ Association, Inc):
"... In sum, we believe that the compulsory license provisions already in existence for musical compositions are sufficiently flexible to address the new business models that crop up every day on the Internet. A level playing field, however, is essential so that Internet music services have every incentive to obtain licenses and compensate songwriters, and so companies that do so are not penalized for following the rules of the road. ..."

Richard Parsons (CO-Chief Operating Officer of AOL - Time - Warner):
"... As inconvenient as it may be to some, the legal right and moral necessity of intellectual property can't be conjured out of existence by the wave of a digital wand. Either we abide by the rule of law or we end up in chaos. ..."

The CD Retailers of the physical world question the industry's motives.

Mike Farrace, (Tower Records, Digital):
"... We're starting to worry that maybe all the talk and activity about protecting the music is not just about controlling copyright infringement, but is really about controlling lawful use and hiding plans for cutting retailers out of the marketplace. ..."

Senators were heard from:

Senator Patrick Leahy:
"...We have worked hard to craft intellectual property legislation that fulfills the promise of our Constitution not simply to secure rights for authors and inventors, but to do so in a way that 'promotes the progress of science and the useful arts.' Consequently, we have strived to ensure that our Copyright Law protects fair use and free speech and promotes consumer choice and technological innovation. ..."

Senator Orrin G. Hatch:
"... Well, I am optimistic that we will be able to choose the road that embraces technology, respects the creativity of artists and meets the justifiably impatient demand of consumers..."

Other concerns floating in the after-hearings discussions included independent artists, who, "don't want to get left in the dust (again), if the new proposed artist alliance will only relate to majors"; traditional online radio broadcasters who follow traditional broadcast guidelines having to compete with online radio stations who don't; some, of course, who want all rules about everything abolished; and some who simply don't care, as they feel rules don't apply to them, anyway.

But wait...there's more. Your government honors (to the good, in my opinion), several treaties, acts, and/or organizations that stretch further than these issues -- WTO (World Trade Organization), WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), just for a few. There are international agreements that prevent the usurping of artists' works and copyrights and masters that go beyond our own laws. And since your digital transfers mean a worldwide availability, isn't one responsible for honoring their countries international agreements, as well as in one's own country?

If you sell a copy of "Mein Kumpf" on your site, you are breaking laws in some parts of Europe. As you "came knowingly into their country via what you knew was a worldwide Internet," you might be held responsible (by them) for an act considered criminal. A Constitutional right in America is not necessarily a guarantee of accepted legal practice in other parts of the world.

Online, have you asked anyone for information? That is illegal in many civilized countries. Have any kids sent you any information? It is, many times, irrelevant that they clicked a button that said "I am over 12" -- and the burden of proof of age is on the one collecting information... ANY sort of relevant information, at least according to our own FCC.

One can't please all of the people all of the time, although some common fair ground is out there. I just thought as long as we are discussing what laws might be created that don't conflict with the ones already in place, these things should, perhaps, be part of the conversation.