The LA Times on Tech Mandates

by on July 11, 2006 · 10 comments

The LA Times has an editorial attacking the entertainment lobby’s pet causes this year: tech mandates for copy protection in digital TV and radio:

The bills would pressure device makers and service providers to limit or eliminate features from some products, such as the ability to record individual songs off satellite radio. In essence, tech companies would have to alter what they are selling to safeguard the entertainment industry’s wares.

Protecting intellectual property is a legitimate goal for Congress–after all, the Constitution called on Congress to give authors and inventors exclusive rights “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” The task has grown more urgent with the emergence of an Internet-fueled global information economy. But what the entertainment industry is seeking in this year’s proposals isn’t merely protection from piracy; it’s after increased leverage to protect its business models.

That’s why lawmakers must bear in mind the balance needed between copyright holders’ interests and the public’s, something Congress has not done well lately. In 1998, it gave copyright holders broad power to block legitimate uses of works, even those in the public domain, through the use of electronic locks that impede copying of digital products. And that same year, it prolonged the public domain’s starvation diet by extending copyrights an additional 20 years, to 70 years beyond the death of the creator.

Whatever your views on the DMCA and copy protection in general, mandating particular copy-protection standards is clearly bad policy.

  • http://zgp.org/~dmarti/ Don Marti

    The Constitution doesn’t actually “call on” Congress to give exclusive interests to inventors and authors. That’s in Article 1, Section 8 along with a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff that Congress is allowed, but not required, to do. “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” is also in there. Congress could stop issuing copyrights entirely if it wanted, as it stopped issuing letters of marque and reprisal.

    The First Amendment is not optional, so it makes sense to put more weight on it when balancing those two parts of the Constitution.

  • dmarti

    The Constitution doesn’t actually “call on” Congress to give exclusive interests to inventors and authors. That’s in Article 1, Section 8 along with a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff that Congress is allowed, but not required, to do. “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” is also in there. Congress could stop issuing copyrights entirely if it wanted, as it stopped issuing letters of marque and reprisal.

    The First Amendment is not optional, so it makes sense to put more weight on it when balancing those two parts of the Constitution.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    That’s an important point, Don. I had a guy tell me not to long ago that the Constitution requires there to be copyright (or it supports the current term and scope – he wasn’t clear). He explained that he was a lawyer and quoted the relevant language: “The Congress shall”. A lawyer myself, I helped this idiot with the rest: “. . . have Power To . . . .”

    No mandate to legislate, much less in any specific way.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    That’s an important point, Don. I had a guy tell me not to long ago that the Constitution requires there to be copyright (or it supports the current term and scope – he wasn’t clear). He explained that he was a lawyer and quoted the relevant language: “The Congress shall”. A lawyer myself, I helped this idiot with the rest: “. . . have Power To . . . .”

    No mandate to legislate, much less in any specific way.

  • Steve R.

    I am overwhelmed with disbelief. Maybe the LA Times editorial staff is finally comprehending what is going on. For a long time I have observed that the LA Times, NY Times, and PCMagazine have been either been silent on DMCA/DRM related issues or simply regurgitate pro-industry press releases. Such a view is logical considering that these companies make money by selling content. Recently PCMagazine has had several articles that I would label as “progressive”. Maybe the times are changing.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    I am overwhelmed with disbelief. Maybe the LA Times editorial staff is finally comprehending what is going on. For a long time I have observed that the LA Times, NY Times, and PCMagazine have been either been silent on DMCA/DRM related issues or simply regurgitate pro-industry press releases. Such a view is logical considering that these companies make money by selling content. Recently PCMagazine has had several articles that I would label as “progressive”. Maybe the times are changing.

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