RealTime IT News

Fighting Back: Coalition Takes on Hollywood

Hollywood is attempting to ban new digital technologies and strip Americans of their fair use recording rights, contends a new coalition of consumers, artists, innovators and technology companies.

In an effort to roll back the legal and legislative efforts of the big record labels and movie studios, the Digital Freedom campaign was launched this week by, among others, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation.

"CEA is supporting the Digital Freedom campaign because it's time to reassert consumers' rights when it comes to new digital technologies," CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said at a Wednesday press conference.

According to the coalition, it plans to target policy makers, innovators, parents, students and other consumers with an education campaign about lawsuits and legislation that the group claims threatens rights to use digital technology.

"It's time to inform consumers about what they can do with these innovative devices rather than intimidating, threatening and even suing them -- the egregious tactic the big record labels and movie studios have taken," Shapiro said.

Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, said Hollywood is pushing hard to enact government-mandated controls that limit the "otherwise legal functions that electronic devices can have."

"The recording industry is going to court to stop devices from being made and sold that simply allow consumers to record music from digital music services, even when there is no possible hint of music theft," she said.

Sohn also pointed to Hollywood's legal efforts to stop Cablevision from providing a TiVo-like service that does not require the consumer to buy a digital video recorder.

"These powerful companies have worked nonstop through Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Copyright Office to achieve their ends," Sohn said.

"The Digital Freedom Campaign is a signal that it's time the government paid attention to consumers and to the laws already on the books."

The Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) quickly responded to the Digital Freedom campaign by characterizing the group's efforts as "demagoguery."

"You don't advance the debate when you stake out extremist positions, engage in fear mongering or broadly condemn a whole community for wishing to defend its lawful rights," the RIAA stated in a Wednesday advertisement.

The RIAA ad stated that the group's position is clear: artists, songwriters, music publishers, musicians and record labels deserve to be paid when music is downloaded.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also quickly criticized the new campaign.

Caroline Joiner, executive director of the Chamber's intellectual property initiative called the effort a self defeating strategy that will hurt both consumers and technology providers alike.

"The Chamber is committed to protecting the technological and creative innovations that drive our economic growth and ensuring that these innovations are protected here and around the globe," she said in a statement.

Joiner said the Chamber would fight any efforts to diminish the rights gained by artists under U.S. copyright laws. She added that her organization does support fair use rights "as long as it is reasonable, equitable and legal."