Not Quite As Bad As Planned

The Senate has passed it’s version of a revision to the copyright laws and the result is not as bad as the original concept written by the media companies. It still allows courts to throw people in jail for three years if they carry a camcorder into a theater (compared to some states which have no penalty for taking a gun to the movies) and permits the use of technology to make DVDs "family friendly" by automatically censoring violence and language.

Fortunately, the bill is missing a provision which would have turned the Justice Department into the media companies’ bloodhound by allowing the Attorney General to file civil lawsuits against people violating copyright laws. Now the RIAA and MPAA will just have to spend their own money to do the job. Also missing are provisions that would have drastically lowered the standards under which a person or company could have been prosecuted for violations of copyright law.

Of course, there is a second version of this mess bouncing around the House and it’s likely to be much closer to what the media companies wanted in the first place. Then comes the conference committee, and if the history of this Congress is any indication, the version that emerges from that exercise could look entirely different from that passed by either house. Unfortunately, our "fair use" rights under current copyright law are still in very real danger of being erased.