ACIS Letter to Representative Howard Coble of North Carolina - 9/30/97


American Committee for Interoperable Systems

The Honorable Howard Coble
Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property
B-351A Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6219

Re: Hearings on H.R. 2281

Dear Chairman Coble:

We write to commend you on the hearings you recently conducted on the WIPO treaties implementing legislation, H.R. 2281. The balanced composition of the panels and members' probing questions resulted in unusually candid testimony which will significantly advance the implementation debate.

  • Bruce Lehman, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, conceded that the treaties did not require a ban on circumvention devices, but could be satisfied by a prohibition on inappropriate circumvention conduct;
  • Marybeth Peters, the Register of Copyrights, acknowledged that the so-called savings clause, Section 1201(d), would not provide a fair use exception to the act of circumvention;
  • Robert Holleyman, President of the Business Software Alliance, stated that Section 1201 should be amended so as not to restrict fair uses such as research;
  • Kenneth Wasch, President of the Software Publishers Association, agreed that implementation of the WIPO treaties should not restrict reverse engineering for purposes of achieving software interoperability;
  • Hillary Rosen, President of the Recording Industry Association of America, asserted that the copyright industries were satisfied with the level of copyright protection available in the United States, but felt that ratification of the WIPO treaties was necessary to achieve additional protection abroad;
  • Ms. Rosen further asserted that H.R. 2281 would lead to a diminution of fair use in the United States, but argued that this was a "small price to pay" to prevent international piracy;
  • Allen Adler, Vice President of the American Association of Publishers, acknowledged that encryption research would violate H.R. 2281;
  • Chris Byrne, Director of Intellectual Property for Silicon Graphics and chair of the Intellectual Property Committee of the Information Technology Industry Council, contended that H.R. 2281, by focusing on technology rather than improper conduct, would have a chilling effect on research and development in the high technology sector;
  • Douglas Bennett, President of Earlham College and Vice President of the American Council of Learned Societies, testified on behalf of the Digital Future Coalition that H.R. 2281 would as a practical matter undermine the limitations and exceptions contained in the Copyright Act, and would restrict an individual's ability to protect personal privacy;
  • Gary Shapiro, President of the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association and Chairman of the Home Recording Rights Coalition, stated that H.R. 2281 would have the effect of overturning the Supreme Court's decision in Sony v. Universal Studios;
  • Edward Black, President of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, observed that H.R. 2281 embodied the approach which the Administration urged the WIPO to adopt last year and which the WIPO rejected;
  • Mr. Black further testified that H.R. 2281 would outlaw devices necessary to maintain computer system security and software interoperability.

In sum, the hearings clearly established two points: first, H.R. 2281 goes beyond what is necessary to implement the WIPO treaties; and second, H.R. 2281 will sharply limit a host of legitimate uses and technologies.

Mr. Chairman, we once again commend you for holding an excellent set of hearings. We look forward to working with you and your staff on crafting balanced, comprehensive implementing legislation which has fewer adverse consequences. We believe that the approach suggested by Congressman Boucher on the second day of hearings achieves these goals.


Peter Choy

cc: Members of the Subcommittee


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