Testimony of Douglas Bennett
The Digital Future Coalition is comprised of 38 of the nation's leading non-profit educational, scholarly, library, and consumer groups, together with major commercial trade associations representing leaders in the consumer electronics, telecommunications, computer and network access industries. The DFC, formed in November of 1995, is committed to preserving the balance now struck in the Copyright Act between protecting intellectual property and affording access to it as copyright law is updated for the digital age. The DFC believes that . . . .
I. Congress Should Act on Comprehensive and Balanced Digital Copyright Legislation Before Ratifying the WIPO Treaties.
H.R. 2281 -- introduced at the President's request -- is both more and less than the WIPO proceedings and sound public policy require it to be. What the bill contains is gravely flawed and what it omits is critical to industry and society as a whole. Thus, while the DFC supports the WIPO treaties, it strongly opposes H.R. 2281 as drafted. Legislation recently offered in the Senate by Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri (S. 1146) would ensure that the copyright-related interests of educators, librarians, high-technology businesses, and other information consumers are balanced with the protections properly afforded to copyright owners and proprietors. The DFC urges Members of the House of Representatives to consider similar legislation for the reasons set forth in its full testimony.
II. The Administration's Proposals Are Anti-Consumer, Anti-Technology, Anti-Competitive and Threaten Personal Privacy.
The Digital Future Coalition has three principal concerns regarding H.R. 2281:
Specifically, the Administration's proposed implementing legislation would:
III. Proposals to Update the Copyright Act Critical to Commercial Innovators, Educators, Librarians, Archivists and the Public Are Missing from the Administration's Legislation.
Just as the proposed implementing legislation would do too much, it also would do too little. Any WIPO-related legislation also should: satisfactorily resolve the on-line service provider liability debate; confirm that the fair use and first sale doctrines apply in cyberspace; permit preservationists and educators legal access to the latest technology; and assure that consumers cannot be forced in non-negotiated licenses to sign away information access privileges assured them under current copyright law. Moreover, as in the past, formal ratification of the treaties should await broad agreement on such legislation.
As Congress undertakes the first major overhaul of the Copyright Act in over two decades, the DFC urges all Members to take the time and care required to honor and reach the Framers' goal of assuring "Progress in Science and the Useful Arts" by ensuring balance in the Copyright Act into the next millennium.