from the Digital Future Coalition's Press Conference
Statement by Carolyn Breedlove on Behalf of The National Education Association
My name is Carolyn Breedlove and I represent the National Education Association (NEA), an organization of 2.2 million public education employees. NEA supports a balanced approach to copyright protection that expands students' access to information and assures the intellectual property rights of writers and program developers. Yet HR 2441 would go too far in limiting students' and teachers' access to information.
NEA provided significant leadership in advancing provisions, included in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, that will assure America's classrooms and libraries affordable access to telecommunications services. We are concerned that the full potential of this landmark legislation may never be realized, however, if Congress enacts the changes that have been proposed in HR 2441.
While the Telecommunications Act offers a significant opportunity to make schools and libraries integral parts of the information infrastructure, the proposed copyright changes could turn teachers and librarians into criminals for unintentionally infringing copyrights in the course of using technology to perform their day-to-day jobs.
NEA was among the first organizations to join the Digital Future Coalition. We understand that America's educators and students have much to lose if the proposed changes become law. While we are concerned about all of the provisions discussed at this press conference, we are particularly concerned about fair use, constraints on browsing the Internet, and the effects this bill may have on distance learning.
The pending legislation makes clear that electronic transmission constitutes "distribution" of copyrighted work. The same actions that are legally permissible in a contained classroom -- for example, reading selections from a novel or viewing a photograph from a magazine -- are considered copyright infringements when the instruction is delivered through distance education technology. This is true, even when every person participating in the lesson -- via distance technology -- is a registered member of the class. Such restrictions will seriously disadvantage rural students whose only means of receiving many advanced courses is through distance education. The education of these students should not be diminished because of geographic considerations.
The pending legislation would also require others, including students with disabilities and adults enrolled in courses at satellite campuses, to forego the many educational benefits that telecommunications technology provides. The telecommunications revolution should foster -- not stymie -- education and learning. To advance our economy and our democracy, it is imperative that we provide all of our students equal opportunities to share in the wealth of our information society.
We believe that the Intellectual Property Subcommittee, in partnership with the users of electronic media and copyright owners, must thoroughly study the implications of this pending legislation prior to markup. Due to its complexity and potential impact on students and educators, the legislation merits thoughtful, careful deliberation at additional hearings.
H.R. 2441 would greatly limit students' and teachers' access to information through the Internet and other distance education technologies and have a detrimental effect on schools and libraries. We urge that the leadership of the United States House of Representatives postpone the markup of this legislation until it has been more fully analyzed.