Music, Tech Groups Outline Copyright Plans

In a move designed to thwart new legislation action regarding digital copyright law, including a bill that proposes to broaden consumer fair use rights, representatives of the recording and technology industries announced Tuesday afternoon they have signed a “landmark” agreement on a core set of principles about the distribution of digital content.

The agreement, signed by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), promotes cross-industry coordination to elevate consumer awareness of piracy issues, a unified consensus on how content creators should be able to use technology to protect their property, and an agreement between the industries that government technical mandates are not the best way to serve the long term interests of consumers, record companies and the technology industry.

“This agreement represents a sea change in the debate over protecting digital content,” said Ken Kay, executive director of CSPP. “These principles ensure the future of the digital age for consumers and should serve as the blueprint for collaboration on piracy issues between the content and technology industries. Through these principles, we can and will work together to provide digital distribution solutions that best protect content, consumer choice and innovation.”

Specifically, the BSA, CSPP and RIAA have agreed on seven principles to govern their activities for the 108th Congress. The associations call for the private sector to be able to continue driving digital distribution. In addition to focusing on areas of agreement rather than “divisive matters relating to government-dictated technology mandates,” the associations stated that, “how companies satisfy consumer expectations is a business decision that should be driven by the dynamics of the marketplace, and should not be legislated or regulated.”

Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the BSA, said, “This is a landmark agreement because it shows that a broad cross-section of companies have come to the conclusion that government-mandated technology protection measures simply won’t work. The technology industry — more than anyone — knows this. And today’s agreement shows that the companies that are hard hit by Internet piracy understand this.”

Rep. Rick Boucher (D.-Va.), who introduced a consumer fair use rights bill last week, was less than enthusiastic about the agreement, saying in an official statement the agreement “does not in any way diminish the need for or the prospects for the passage” of his legislation.

“The absence of organizations which are critical to the issues surrounding the fair use debate must be considered when characterizing the significance of this agreement,” Boucher said. “For example, the Motion Picture Association of America remains the moving party in support of technology mandates. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and other technology companies such as Sun Microsystems, Gateway and Verizon, are also not part of the agreement and these entities consistently have been in the forefront of promoting fair use rights for digital consumers.”

Boucher said Intel, the only supporter of his bill (HR 107) which is part of an organization participating in the agreement, has “reaffirmed its strong support for the passage of H.R. 107 and has indicated that the agreed-upon statement of principles is not inconsistent with strong support for the enactment of H.R. 107 and the affirmance of fair use rights for the purchasers of digital media.”

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA, said, “While we also support private negotiations between device manufacturers and content developers, we continue to believe that legislation is required to strike the necessary balance between protecting copyrights and consumers’ fair use rights.”

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