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DigitalConsumer.org Statement on Tauzin Bill Draft

Palo Alto, Calif. -- September 19, 2002 -- Digitalconsumer.org today issued the following statement regarding Chairman Tauzinís "digital television" bill draft that was issued late on Wednesday:

We are extremely disappointed in Chairman Tauzinís bill draft that was released today. We oppose this legislation because it restricts usersí rights to fair use and stifles innovation.

We oppose the legislation for four main reasons:

  1. The broadcast flag is fundamentally anti-consumer. The bill asserts that fair-use will be protected while at the same time providing content providers with bulletproof piracy protection. But no such technology exists to meet both of these goals, and the content companies who architected this bill have admitted that fair use must be sacrificed whenever it comes into conflict with "robust" content protection. In addition, the bill draft requires that no analog ports be put on digital television devices after July 1, 2005. The impact of this is that existing VCRís, most of which are analog, will not work with digital televisions produced after July 1, 2005.
  2. The bill is Hollings for TV. We disagree with the principle of the bill -- the idea that the federal government should mandate and perennially regulate the development, feature set, and behavior of millions of consumer electronics devices. This mandate would affect how consumers watch, record, enjoy and manipulate television. The government is ill equipped to manage the growth and development of fast-moving technology. Our countryís technological success depends on a fast-moving competitive market, not a ponderous regulatory regime.
  3. Federal regulation of the consumersí family room. This bill draft would give an un-elected, unaccountable federal bureaucracy the authority to dictate the use of the devices in a consumersí family room. Today consumers control their TVs, DVD players, and VCRs. The federal government, through this bill, will cede control of those devices to media companies that have no interest in fair use. This gives the entertainment industry the legal authority to take away fair use rights and then sell a limited set of those rights back to the consumer. We believe federal regulation at this level is both unnecessary and inappropriate.
  4. Gravestone for innovation, January 1, 2006. The bill draft marks January 1, 2006 as the date on which all devices have to respect the broadcast flag. The mandated DRM system will have certain rules about which uses are allowed and which uses are prohibited. These rules essentially "lock in" state of technology. If a new technology comes along that requires a different behavior than that of the deployed DRM system, that new technology will not be permitted. Imagine if similar legislation had been passed before the VCR -- because no one had yet thought of saving a TV show to tape, the fair use of time-shifting would not have been built into the rules. But once the rules have been locked into millions of TVs, it is nearly impossible to change them.

ABOUT DIGITALCONSUMER.ORG

Digitalconsumer.org is a consumer-advocacy group started in 2001 with a mission to restore the balance of copyright law so that artists and creators can prosper while citizens have reasonable flexibility to use content in fair and legal ways. The group is composed of entrepreneurs, investors and consumers, and it is proposing a set of principles - a Consumer Technology Bill of Rights - that it intends to have passed into law. These principles would preserve consumers' historic fair-use rights that have been recently diminished by changes in copyright law made at the request of media companies. To learn more about the Consumer Technology Bill of Rights, please visit: www.digitalconsumer.org.

Press contact:
Melissa Walia
press@digitalconsumer.org
(650) 208-4523

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