One of the other common themes at this morning's Cato event from the folks supporting stronger IP protections was that it was all about "choice." They kept saying that the point of having laws to protect DRM is to give people the "choice" of whether or not to protect their works. Those of us who were arguing on the other side wondered why this "choice" needed to be codified by law -- when they already have the "choice" to use DRM or not without needing a law making things more difficult. However, it's really hard to square the idea that this is all about giving the content creators a "choice" when new laws come out that do things like requiring the use of copy protection technologies. The latest is the so-called PERFORM Act, which Gary Shapiro (of the Consumer Electronics Association) pointed out was problematic in his discussion this morning. The bill tries to add new license fees to satellite radio -- even though these broadcasters already pay for the content they broadcast. The specific issue is that since the broadcast is also streamable and recordable on computers, the industry wants a second license beyond the broadcast one. The second one is to cover the potential for someone to record the stream and keep a version of the content. It's basically a way to double dip from the satellite radio providers. That's not all the bill does, however. The EFF is pointing out that among the provisions of the bill there's one that would effectively require any streaming music provider to use copy protection. While some do so already, many others stream (legally) using MP3 streaming. These aren't downloads of MP3s, but streams. These streams are basically just as recordable as traditional terrestrial radio -- which hasn't been much of a problem in the past. However, this bill would require anyone who uses the standard SoundExchange licenses to pay for the rights to stream music would then be required to ditch MP3 streams and replace them with proprietary DRM-encrusted streams to make it more difficult to record the stream (which, last we checked was still perfectly legal fair use). In other words, the "choice" aspect goes away and the DRM is effectively required by law. Once again, it's looking like this is less about "choice" and much more about protecting one industry's increasingly obsolete business model.
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