March 01, 2004
Wacky Ideas in Ivory Towers? Not According to this Report

Report Raises Questions About Fighting Online Piracy by John Schwartz/NYT is about the Committee for Economic Development report that just came out (Susan Crawford was on this project too, so you know it's be well considered): "Promoting Innovation and Economic Growth: The Special Problem of Digital Intellectual Property." (Note it's a pdf.)

The article says the report concludes the entertainment industry's pursuit of tough new laws to protect copyrighted materials from online piracy is bad for business and for the economy.

The report recommends:

    1. Because quick legislative or regulatory solutions for the problem of digital copyright protection pose risks to innovation and economic growth, and are likely to have unintended consequences in a period of rapid technological change, we should move slowly. Our first concern should be to "do no harm." We should dedicate the next two years to attempting to build consensus about the appropriate role in the digital age for traditional legal safety valves that balance the exclusive rights of creators in copyright regimes with users' rights. The Digital Connections Council looks forward to facilitating this national and international dialogue.
    2. The development and testing of new business models for the distribution of creative content should be given the highest priority by the content industries. We should not turn to law or regulation to protect any particular business model.
    3. Existing solutions to the issue of unauthorized uses, such as enforcement and education, should continue to be explored.
    4. We recognize the need for digital rights management (DRM) systems that will allow creators to be rewarded for their efforts. We are skeptical about government-mandated DRM, and we recommend that manufacturers not be required to build in mandated copy protection technologies. But DRM systems provide a useful "speed bump" for consumers by inhibiting unauthorized uses of materials. During this period of consensus building about "safety valves" in intellectual property law, we encourage continued experimentation in private DRM systems. In particular, the capacity of such systems to accommodate users' rights traditionally allowed under intellectual property law needs to be further explored so that the appropriate copyright balance can be maintained. If government-mandated systems are proposed, they should be evaluated on the basis of their capability to maintain such a balance and their convenience for consumers. Consumers should play a substantial role in evaluating and approving mandated technological protection systems.
    5. Market-based economic tools that provide incentives for copyright-holders to facilitate follow-on innovation should be considered--including measures to provide earlier dedication of copyrighted materials to the public domain.

And Conclusion:

    We are sympathetic to the problems confronting the content distribution industry. It is beyond question that this industry faces real problems that deeply affect its future. But these problems -- perfect copies of high-value digital works being transmitted instantly around the world at almost no cost -- require clear, concentrated thinking, rather than quick legislative or regulatory action. As Thomas Edison said: "There is time for everything." Given the present limitations on bandwidth, the immaturity of many technical protection systems, and the inevitable unforeseen consequences of governmental actions, there is time to lay a stable foundation for intellectual property rules in the digital world.
    Given CED's mandate, the Digital Connections Council has attempted to examine the current digital copyright issues within the context of concern for the overall economic health of this country. We believe this economic perspective -- and in particular an understanding of the sequential nature of innovation -- has not been adequately taken into account in the public debate. We also believe it is not too late for thoughtful discussion to find solutions that will prove broadly acceptable and encourage self-enforcement rather than an increase in litigation or regulation. It will be essential for thoughtful and inventive key stakeholders to sit down together to work through these problems. The Digital Connections Council looks forward to joining in such discussions and hopes this report will provide a helpful perspective.

Let's hope stakeholders includes the people formerly known as consumers.

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 01, 2004 08:09 AM

In the linked NYT piece, it's stated:
"Cary H. Sherman, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said that "there isn't a lot here to disagree with" from his industry's perspective, since the recording industry signed an agreement with technology companies a year ago stating that it would not push for government-mandated technology solutions for its copyright problems."

What/when was this agreement? I guess pushing for strict enforcement of the DMCA in its broadest interpretation would do the same job...

Posted by: AdamThomas on March 2, 2004 02:25 PM
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