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ADP & RIAA Call for Less Legislating
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2003-04-10
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Over the past year, we've seen a significant involvement in the copyright debate by the legislative branch at all levels, whether on Capitol Hill, the California Senate or New York State Assembly. But the ultimate question remains unanswered: what is the proper role of government in protecting creators & consumers' rights without impending market growth and innovation?

On the one hand, Alliance for Digital Progress President Fred McClure called on all sides at a recent Hollywood's Digital Media Summit to "reject attempts to have the government design content protection schemes," a direct reference to the Senator Hollins' bill, instead relying on the technology sector "developing consumer friendly solutions for protecting digital content".

"Technology mandates by government will stifle innovation, impede technological development, impair product performance, increase consumer costs, and amount to nothing less than a tax on entertainment and Internet use. This is not acceptable. It would amount to a major roadblock to our mutual pursuit of digital progress."

On the other hand, RIAA Chairperson and CEO Hilary Rosen at this year's NARM Convention vigorously questioned the need for legislation explicitly protecting consumer's fair use rights, a stab at bills proposed by Representatives Boucher/Doolittle and Lofgren.

"Consumers currently enjoy the ability to make personal copies and it makes no sense to legislate in this area. Does anyone in this room really believe we need to find more ways for people to copy and distribute music? Legislating where it's not needed and possibly creating new loopholes for people to abuse is not in the interest of record labels or retailers."

My own views on both types of legislation have been fully & frequently aired in this newsletter. But it does not answer the broader question of what standard should be used to determine when & how government should intervene. Government's role in the global sense is obviously to represent the interest of society as a whole, or as economist would say, to maximize social welfare.

This, I would contend, is the basis for Congress' power to grant copyright under the US Constitution: "to promote the progress of science and useful arts." Promoting the arts clearly increases the general welfare of society and thus may require the granting of exclusive rights to creators over their works. The fact that the Constitution explicitly restricts Congress' power to grant such rights "for limited times" further reinforces the Founding Fathers' concern for promoting social welfare. Otherwise, it would not have ruled out a blanket exclusive right that would be to creators benefit, but not to society's as a whole.

So, in judging the various calls for more or less government intervention, ask yourself how such proposals would impact society as a whole, from songwriters, composers & musicians, to the music & tech industry, and music buyers & lovers.

Related News from Mi2N:
» Alliance For Digital Progress President Shares Vision Of Digital Frontier
» Prepared Remarks Of Hilary Rosen At National Association Of Recording Merchandisers Annual Convention And Trade Show


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