DFC Press Release

Embargoed for Release
10 A.M. Nov. 15, 1995

CONTACT:Adam Eisgrau
Digital Future
202-628-8410, ext. 208
Meredith Hammans
Wednesday, 9 am - noon

Broad Based Coalition Expresses Concern Over Intellectual Property Proposals and Urges Close Congressional Scrutiney

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 15, 2020

Consumers, distributors and creators of  information welcome today's Congressional hearing scrutinizing the  Administration's White Paper on Intellectual Property in the National  Information Infrastructure. "The legal regime envisioned by the White Paper has serious flaws, and we are confident that these flaws will become more evident to Congress as it deliberates this issue," said Adam Eisgrau, Legislative Counsel  of the American Library Association. In letters dated November 9 and published  in Roll Call (Nov. 13), the Digital Future Coalition urged Congress to  thoroughly examine the currently pending proposal. The coalition's members are  concerned that premature action on this highly complex legislation presents  substantial risk of unintended consequences.

The Digital Future Coalition (DFC) is a recently-formed organization  representing more than 2.2 million individuals, corporations and organizations  with direct interest and expertise in the continued growth and development of  the National Information Infrastructure (NII). The members of the DFC are  committed to supporting proposals that promote innovation in the information and technology industries, personal privacy in electronic communication and public  access to information resources, as well as appropriate protection for  copyrighted content in the digital environment.

The DFC is deeply concerned that these universal goals will not be realized if  the unbalanced analysis and incomplete technological understanding of the recent "White Paper" report by the National Information Infrastructure Task Force's  Intellectual Property Working Group are accepted and prematurely codified.  While the authors of the White Paper claim that its recommendations, embodied in H.R. 2441 and S. 1284, constitute only a "minor clarification" of current  copyright law, the DFC says the real ramifications of these recommendations are  sweeping.

Additionally, the proposed legislation could reduce public and educational  access to the Internet. This legislation "threatens the growth of new  electronic educational techniques, such as `distance learning' programs vital to rural communities, by imposing potentially prohibitive copyright clearance costs on academic innovators," according to Peter Jaszi, Professor, American  University law school.

The DFC believes that the legal regime envisioned in the White Paper and  reflected in H.R. 2441 and S. 1284 is one that could delay or even prevent the  emergence of new commercial technologies, and frustrate competition in the  marketplace for digital goods and services by picking "winners" over startup  enterprises. It could also invite invasion of the privacy of digital  information user, expose on-line/internet service providers to unspecified legal liability and reduce educators' and the public's access to digital information. As it stands, the current legislation could "stifle innovation and job creation  in the private sector," said Edward J. Black, President of the Computer &  Communications Industry Association. "Overbroad prohibitions against the  manufacture and sale of useful consumer electronic devices, and severe  restrictions on the legitimate reverse analysis of hardware and software to  achieve interoperability, are just two examples of the unintended consequences  currently contained in the White Paper."

In its letter, the DFC expressed concern that these and other proposals are  being put forward as international treaty language before being fully considered domestically. Moreover, the DFC urged Congress not to rush its deliberations as a result of the international agenda.

In the best interests of American creators and users of intellectual property,  the coalition has urged Congress to thoroughly scrutinize the full range of  issues raised by the National Information Infrastructure and actively seek  independent and detailed assessments of the White Paper from interested  organizations across the political spectrum. Furthermore, the DFC asked  Congress to communicate to the Executive Branch that making commitments in  international negotiations would be premature at this time.

"Today, both commercial and non-commercial use of the NII is increasing  geometrically, within the sound basic framework of existing intellectual  property laws. There is therefore no urgent reason to legislate soon rather  than well," said Eisgrau.



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