Legislators Push DMCA Amendments, Back Fair Use Modifications

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Lawmakers Rich Boucher (D-Va) and John Doolittle (R-Ca) have recently introduced a bill that aims to amend aspects of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which the pair claims is overly skewed towards the interests of content creators. The bill, dubbed the “Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing US Entrepreneurship Act” or “FAIR USE Act,” aims to restore balance and better serve consumers and technology innovators.

“The Digital Millennium Copyright Act dramatically tilted the copyright balance toward complete copyright protection at the expense of the public’s right to fair use,” said Boucher. “Without a change in the law, individuals will be less willing to purchase digital media if their use of the media within the home is severely circumscribed, and the manufacturers of equipment and software that enables circumvention for legitimate purposes will be reluctant to introduce the products into the market.”

The DMCA has been a controversial topic for many years now. Critics of the DMCA argue that it has allowed copyright holders to stifle fair use, and that the law’s anti-circumvention provisions have made it illegal to modify or bypass digital rights management (DRM) technologies, even if the purpose is lawful. This has led to concerns that consumers are not able to make fair use of copyrighted works, even if the use is non-commercial and has no impact on the market for the original work.

The FAIR USE Act aims to address these concerns by introducing amendments to the circumvention provisions in the original law, allowing consumers to sidestep DRM protections for specific non-infringing uses like archiving. The legislation would also protect users of portable media devices. “No person shall be liable for copyright infringement based on the design, manufacture, or distribution of a hardware device or of a component of the device if the device is capable of substantial, commercially significant non-infringing use,” the act states.

The bill has already garnered support from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Home Recording Rights Coalition (HRRC), both of whom have urged strong support for the changes. “We congratulate Reps. Boucher and Doolittle for stepping forward to protect legitimate businesses from intimidation, and to confirm and restore the rights of consumers, educators, libraries and other constructive users of content,” the HRRC stated in a separate release.

The FAIR USE Act is seen as a step in the right direction by many in the tech industry and among consumer advocates. The bill aims to restore balance to the copyright debate, and ensure that consumers are not unfairly restricted in their use of digital media. At the same time, it seeks to protect the interests of content creators by maintaining the existing protections afforded to them under the DMCA.

The introduction of the FAIR USE Act comes at a time when the debate over copyright law is more contentious than ever. With the rise of the internet and digital media, copyright holders are increasingly concerned about piracy and unauthorized use of their works. At the same time, consumers are concerned about their rights to fair use and access to information.

The FAIR USE Act is just one piece of a larger puzzle, as lawmakers, content creators, and consumers continue to grapple with the complex issues surrounding copyright law in the digital age. However, it is an important step forward, and one that could have a significant impact on the future of digital media and innovation in the United States.

Story by news analyst Richard Menta.