Digital Future Coalition Press Conference

JUNE 11, 1996


My name is Christine Owens and I am speaking on behalf of the American Committee for Interoperable Systems (ACIS). I'm here today to express our serious concerns about the NII Copyright Bill -- H.R. 2441, and to urge Members of the House Intellectual Property Subcommittee to continue working on this bill before moving it forward.

ACIS members include many of the cutting edge technology leaders of internet related software, hardware and services. We are dedicated to promoting copyright policy that will protect intellectual property, promote innovation and allow for software interoperability.

ACIS is an industry organization and we are joined here today not only by other industry groups, but also by librarians, educators, and consumer advocates. We believe this speaks volumes as to the seriousness of this issue. The Digital Future Coalition illustrates the diverse interests that are united in their trepidation about this legislation.

ACIS members are especially concerned that efforts to legislate prematurely could have a very negative effect on innovation. ACIS members have a variety of specific concerns about this bill and its Senate counterpart, S. 1284. These include the bill's failure to adequately address issues such as on-line liability and fair use in the digital environment. ACIS as a whole is particularly troubled by the proposed Section 1201, which deals with devices that circumvent copyright protection systems. We are not opposed to the provision in concept -- however, it is absolutely essential that any such provision must be carefully drafted so as not to hamper innovation. The current 1201 language fails to pass this test -- and could seriously impede new technological developments. Such constraints on innovation will thwart our ability to realize the full potential of new technologies to enhance health care, education, transportation and other benefits.

These are complex issues. This is not simply matter of content providers versus users as some might have you believe. The fact is DFC members, including the members of ACIS, are content providers AND users of information. We believe it is absolutely essential that any copyright legislation be carefully crafted to balance all the relevant interests. The various points of view on matters such as, fair use, on-line liability and circumvention devices, must all be taken into consideration. If we fail to strike the proper balance now, the party that comes out ahead after this round will have absolutely no incentive to improve the system later on. This is not an issue that can be addressed piecemeal. Congress should deal with these issues in one bill -- or not at all.

At the same time that we are urging Congress to take this slowly and do it right, we are also urging the Administration to slow down its international efforts. As we engage in heated debate here in the U.S. over these issues, the Administration is working to get our international partners in the World Intellectual Property Organization to agree to these same controversial proposals. This is perhaps even more troubling than the current legislation. If these proposals are incorporated into international treaty language, they will come to Congress in the form of implementing legislation. This will leave far less room for necessary amendments and the results of the current intense discussions over these issues could become meaningless.

Given the breadth and diversity of concerned parties, the Digital Future Coalition believes it is quite clear that this piece of legislation is not yet ready for prime time.

Furthermore, these proposals, which are so controversial domestically, should not be the basis for our international negotiating position.


We will continue to work with Members of Congress and the Administration and hope they will address our concerns adequately.

I'd be happy to answer questions once my colleagues have given their remarks.



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