which party is in favor of big government?

If you didn't like the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, get ready. A Republican bill sponsored by -- guess who -- James Sensenbrenner, would (if the reports are correct) criminalize even fair use, and transform the DMCA into the most draconian copyright legislation in United States history.

Some highlights from the proposed legislation (which has the backing of the Bush administration) include a toughening of the DMCA which would make attempting to infringe on copyright illegal. In addition, no one would be allowed to "make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess" hardware or software that could be used to circumvent copy-protection mechanisms. That's an expansion on the DMCA's current language, which prohibits the distribution of tools such as DeCSS that can be used to bypass copy-protection schemes.

That's not all. Criminal enforcement of copyright violations will be extended to cover works not registered with the US Copyright Office at the time of the violation. Also, asset forfeiture will be used as a weapon against those infringing on copyright. That PC you use to rip a copy of The Empire Strikes Back to your hard drive could be confiscated and either destroyed or sold at government auction. Other criminal penalties for infringement would be toughened, including up to 10 years in prison for posting copyrighted material online if its value exceeds US$1,000.

That's just a short list—there is reportedly more objectionable stuff in 24-page draft of the bill. (We called Rep. Sensenbrenner's office in an attempt to obtain a copy of the draft legislation, but have not yet received one.) Update: a draft of the bill (PDF) is now available.

It's disturbing that this business-friendly legislation has the backing of the administration while the consumer-friendly Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act sponsored by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) has remained bottled up in subcommittee for most of its existence. As currently written, the Intellectual Property Protection Act would tilt the balance even more heavily in the favor of content producers at the expense of American consumers.

If, as Sensenbrenner thinks, even attempted copyright infringement should be punishable by ten years in prison, what about attempts to defeat such legislation? Shouldn't that also be a crime?

There's more here:

The 24-page bill is a far-reaching medley of different proposals cobbled together. One would, for instance, create a new federal crime of just trying to commit copyright infringement. Such willful attempts at piracy, even if they fail, could be punished by up to 10 years in prison.

...But one of the more controversial sections may be the changes to the DMCA. Under current law, Section 1201 of the law generally prohibits distributing or trafficking in any software or hardware that can be used to bypass copy-protection devices. (That section already has been used against a Princeton computer science professor, Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and a toner cartridge remanufacturer.)

It's about time we cracked down on remanufactured toner cartridges! They are often used by terrorists, and in the wrong hands, why, they can be almost as deadly as sudafed!

Here here!

Smith's measure would expand those civil and criminal restrictions. Instead of merely targeting distribution, the new language says nobody may "make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess" such anticircumvention tools if they may be redistributed to someone else.

"It's one degree more likely that mere communication about the means of accomplishing a hack would be subject to penalties," said Peter Jaszi, who teaches copyright law at American University and is critical of attempts to expand it.

Unless I am reading this latest DMCA deal incorrectly, it seems pretty clear that the Republicans want copyright laws more draconian than the existing DMCA, while the Democrats (at least Boucher) favor at least fair use.


At times like this, I'm not even sure I'm comfortable being a RINO. (I guess I called myself a "Goldwater liberal" just in the nick of time!)

But maybe I'm being hysterical. Perhaps I should take a broader view of these things. After all, my dog Coco has been known to assert her rights under the DCMA. . .

posted by Eric on 04.24.06 at 10:47 PM


Coco should be aware that humans admire her courage, tenacity, and heart- in short her gameness, and wish to emulate those wonderful characteristics, which are all too lacking in today's America.

As for the DMCA... between Mccain diminishing free speech and this I'm about ready to say "I didn't leave the Republican party- the Republican party left me."

I used to feel sorry for Britain because they have a choice between two "liberal" parties- the bell tolls for me...

Harkonnendog   ·  April 25, 2006 7:39 PM

Coco thanks you, TJ.

As to choices, we'll continue to hear that there is one. I'll probably continue to vote for the lesser of two evils.

I just get tired of being told that I'm making a good choice, and I get even more tired of endless elections. I'm already sick of the 2008 election. The Fall election is just a warmup . . .

Eric Scheie   ·  April 25, 2006 10:47 PM

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