What Will The Election Mean For Copyright?
from the it-all-depends... dept
Jerry Brito over at the Technology Liberation Front points us to William Patry’s thoughts on what yesterday’s election is likely to mean for copyright law. Patry, of course, is one of the leading experts on intellectual property law and public policy. He notes that with the Democrats now in power in the House it means that either Howard Berman or Rick Boucher will get to run the IP subcommittee — and that it’s Berman’s choice (Berman is more senior). That really means, Berman needs to decide if he wants to focus more on other issues or more on IP issues (even though he’ll participate either way). The result could have a pretty big impact. Patry paints nice pictures of both Representatives, but they tend to have very different views on intellectual property issues.
Berman (whose district is right next to Hollywood) has been referred to as “the Representative from Disney,” as he’s proposed lots of legislation that the entertainment industry would love (though, to be fair, Disney has become a lot more reasonable since Robert Iger took over). Among Berman’s proposed or supported laws were the ability for copyright holders to take vigilante action on those they believed were sharing their content allowing them to hack into your computer, a bill to strip away many fair use protections, a bill to let the entertainment industry use the FBI’s seal when going after copyright infringers, a bill to give jail time to those caught file sharing (rather than just fines), a proposal to put people in jail for registering a domain with fake info and has been a big supporter of adding a broadcast flag requirement to consumer electronics. When people point out how any of these things may really cripple the tech industry all for the sake of the much smaller entertainment industry, Berman has responded about how he doesn’t much care for “self-pity” from the tech industry (while having no problem at all supporting it from Hollywood). While Patry insists Berman is smart and knowledgeable about these things, his past track record seems a bit scary for the tech industry and for consumers everywhere.
On the flip side, if Berman decides not to take over the subcommittee, it will go to Rick Boucher, who in many ways seems to be Berman’s opposite on these issues. He questioned the entertainment industry on how copy protection schemes may be illegal by blocking someone’s legal right to make private copies and for many years has been the leading voice in Congress for why the DMCA needs to be rewritten to take into account the user’s point of view. He’s also criticized the copyright office for taking the entertainment industry’s side on certain issues. In other words, he actually does seem to realize the importance of these issues (though, he did offer to horse trade, allowing the broadcast flag to move forward, if others would support his DMCA changes). Overall, the difference between Berman and Boucher is a very big difference on how they view copyright/intellectual property issues. Berman clearly takes the entertainment industry’s view while Boucher believes in supporting consumers’ rights. It’s not hard to see who we’re hoping gets the job.