CEA conference features hot debates over copyright issues


Arlington, VA - The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)'s one-day conference, Digital Download: Public Access to Content in a Digital World, held yesterday in Washington, DC, presented several debates and discussions on the proper balance between home recording and fair use rights, intellectual property and new technologies in the digital age.

The conference tackled the issues of digital freedom vs. digital restraint, understanding the consumers' interest in these issues, how technology can protect copyrights while allowing consumers access to digital content, what new technologies are being developed for the future, and how copy protection has divided politicians and the entertainment industry.

In his opening remarks, CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro condemned piracy while defending consumer's fair use rights. "Copying content and reselling it for commercial gain is wrong and should be illegal," said Shapiro. But, Shapiro was quick to draw a clear distinction between consumer home recording for non-commercial purposes and "piracy." Shapiro commented that the Internet and new, emerging technologies are providing important benefits for consumers, and CEA's vision is that of a connected world with people having access to each other and to information.

"From big HDTVs to Internet telephony, from digital picture frames to Internet radio, we are at the beginning of a revolution in electronics," said Shapiro. "This revolution will change the world, enhance life and help close the digital divide. We don't know the future, but we do know that we may be at a fork in the road. The path we choose will be important in determining how we communicate, how we exchange information and how we can develop technology."

In the first session of the morning, "Digital Freedom vs. Digital Restraint," moderator Drew Clark of Technology Daily led a panel group consisting of Manus Cooney, vice-president of corporate and public policy for Napster; Dr. Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America; Peter Jaszi, professor for the Washington College of Law at American University; Fritz Attaway, executive vice president of government affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America; and Jonathan Potter, executive director for the Digital Media Association, in a series of heated debates surrounding copyright protection and consumer's rights to fair use of digital content. The exact definition of fair use was quick to become a subject of disagreement.

"Broadly speaking, fair use incites courts and individuals to engage in a balancing process between the content's use and its' costs," said Jaszi.

Jonathan Potter noted advocates of the public's fair use are not preaching free music. "We are here to promise ways to get the content to consumers in the way that they want it and are willing to pay for."

The second session, moderated by Jon Healy of the Los Angeles Times, offered panelists Linda Golodner, president of the National Consumers League; Pam Horovitz, president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers; and James G. Neal, dean of university libraries for John Hopkins University, the opportunity to help define the affects copyrights have on the consumer. Golodner explained the fundamental thinking of the consumer, stating that the public understands and expects the money being spent for a product goes to both the designer and the worker producing the product. There is a sense of ownership when a product is bought.

"When someone buys a CD, they expect to be able to do whatever they want with the CD," explained Horovitz. "But the difference between what is legal and what is authorized is very vague at this time."

Neal stated that exercising non-infringeable rights is questionable at best. "Copyright protection is not timeless," said Neal. "The protection only lasts a certain amount of time. There is a mandate for creativity." In conclusion, Neal stated that there must be a way to bring the publisher of the work and the consumer to the table to work out the issues at-hand together.

In "Practicing Safe Download: Copy Protection for Today's Technologies," panelists Seth Greenstein of McDermott, Will and Emery; David Leibowitz, chairman of Verance Corp.; Cary Sherman of the Recording Industry Association of America; and Matthew Zinn of TiVo, Inc., discussed the delicate balancing act that technology creates when attempting to align the needs of the copyright owner while allowing consumers access to digital content.

Sherman stated that with the emergence of new technologies such as the DVD and MP3, more and more people are going to have access to the tools to duplicate these products. "Napster has raised the bar," stated Sherman. "But control is needed so that businesses that produce these works aren't competing against these free services. We want to keep piracy at manageable levels."

Zinn noted that "Napster is the consumer's reaction to getting ripped off $19 for a CD that costs 50 cents to make. The genie is out of the bottle and has changed the timelines for everything. We are beyond even Internet time. We must fill the Napster gap quickly. People want content, and if the music business does not provide it, someone else will."

Congressman Rick Boucher delivered a lunchtime keynote speech discussing proposals dealing with consumers' fair use of content. Boucher hopes this legislation will ensure the fair use of copyrighted works for students and scholars and digital home recording rights. "The public's fair use rights of intellectual property have been threatened," stated Boucher. He explained that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act had gone too far and current laws need to be changed.

During "Music, Internet, Video: We Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications, moderated a panel including Jordan Greenhall, founder and CEO of DivXNetworks, and Tom Sulzer, founder and CEO of MoodLogic.

Both panelists offered insight into new technologies on the horizon and how they will be impacted by litigation. "Video has seen significant headway in pleasing both providers and consumers," said Greenhall. "Significant progress has been made and the outlook is positive."

Sulzer added that work needs to be done in the realm of audio, expressing the need to distinguish between those files that are authorized to be accessed and those that are not. "Young people are listening to music mostly from their PC," said Sulzer. "More and more people are transferring from CD use to digital file use."

The final session focused on public access to content in a digital world. Presenter Sharon Hogan, university librarian at the University of Illinois of Chicago, explained copy protection and the implications presented between political pressures and assuring public access to content on the Web. Hogan strongly expressed the need for scholars and students to have access to digital content. "The use of copyrighted material is at the heart of the educational process," said Hogan.

Rap icon Chuck D, Internet music advocate and founder of Rapstation.com delivered the much anticipated artist keynote. Chuck D gave his view of the whole issue stating "stopping file sharing is like eating soup with a fork." Chuck D said for the first time, the public possesses a little bit more technology than the producers of music, drawing the lines for a battle between consumers and the industry. "The Internet is the saving grace," boasted Chuck D. "Myself as an artist, it's not so much the money as it is the control. There needs to be a parallel industry to the industry that now exists."

In a closing keynote, Congressman Billy Tauzin, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, discussed copyright from a policy standpoint, stating the attempt to find a middle ground in balancing the needs of copyright owners vs. the right of the public to access the content. "This battle will go on until the recording industry finds a way to live harmoniously with new technology," stated Tauzin. "If we are not careful in the effort to protect intellectual property in this new digital age, we may end up hurting consumer's rights. We need to achieve that balance."

Tauzin expressed the need to make changes to the current copyright law. "I reiterate the words of CEA president Shapiro, if changes aren't made, will we be turning the play button into the pay button?" In closing, he called for the content providers' and the technology developers' assistance in helping the government find a solution to the problem.

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