Kiss Your Copy Rights Goodbye

That didn’t take long. The media companies and their lobbyists are back with the Intellectual Property Protection Act, which they hope to shove down our throats during the lame-duck session of their pet Congress that begins this week. Basically, this law is a "worst-of" collection of pieces taken from previous attempts to restrict the way any kind of recorded material can be used. The net effect of all this would be to completely trash the legal concept of "fair use" in the US.

Among other tidbits in this steaming pile of crap is the concept from the Induce Act which says manufacturers of devices that allow the copying of music and movies (think iPod, DVD burner or TiVo) could be held criminally liable for what users do with them. But that’s just the start.

The bill would also permit people to use technology to skip objectionable content — like a gory or sexually explicit scene — in films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the proposed language, viewers would not be allowed to use software or devices to skip commercials or promotional announcements "that would otherwise be performed or displayed before, during or after the performance of the motion picture," like the previews on a DVD. The proposed law also includes language from the Pirate Act (S2237), which would permit the Justice Department to file civil lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.

Also under the proposed law, people who bring a video camera into a movie theater to make a copy of the film for distribution would be imprisoned for three years, fined or both.

We have some violent criminals that don’t get three years in jail.

The recording and motion pictures industries are, of course, ecstatic over the law, although how the RIAA can call this mess a "common sense set of tools" defies credibility. There’s no "common sense" here. If there was, the media companies would realize that this law will not stop people from making illegal copies of digital media. What it will do is piss off a lot of their honest customers who just want the right to use what they’ve purchased in the most convenient way available.

However, the bottom line here is the bottom line. The media companies are pleading poverty. What they really want is to charge additional fees for the right to move a recording from a CD to an iPod. If you want to TiVo a movie and then watch it more than once, they want to charge you for the privilege (if the producer wants to allow you to record it at all, that is). And don’t even think about recording a pay-per-view movie.

The really bizarre thing in all of this is that I find myself in agreement with the American Conservative Union, which will produce a print ad campaign opposing the bill. There can’t be anything good in a law like that.

End of rant. Go write your Congressmen.