March 11, 2003
Legislative Longshot or Balancing Act?

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren proposed a bill Monday that will preserve comsumers' rights to make backup copies of purchased music, movies and books for use on other personal devices, like the car stereo or a portable player (reported by Dawn C. Chmielewski in today's Mercury News).

Logfren admits that the bill, which already died last year in committee, is a legislative long-shot. Of course the Motion Picture Association of America and the Business Software Alliance, which counts Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and Intel as members, oppose the bill. "As drafted, this legislation essentially legalizes hacking," said MPAA Chairman Jack Valenti in a statement. He also said, with characteristically murderous metaphor (remember the Boston Strangler?), that Lofgren's bill would put a "dagger in the heart" of the DMCA. Not a bad idea...

"If it's my own DVD disc or my own CD, why can't I make fair use of this property? I think that's one of the things Congress did intend as part of the balancing principle of the DMCA,'' says Pamela Samuelson, from UC's Boalt Hall Law School. "At least as interpreted by some judges, that compromise has been undermined. (Lofgren's) bill ends up trying to restore the balance that Congress intended.''

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