June 6, 2006 | By Fred von Lohmann

Yes, Slashdotters, SIRA Really Is Bad

After our post about and call to stop the Section 115 Reform Act, some people have pointed to the Copyright Office's preliminary report and asked us to clarify why the bill's language making incidental copies license-able is a bad thing.

As we said in our post, we have no objection to SIRA's goal: clearing the legal path for music services that offer digital music downloads and streams. The problem is that the music publishers snuck language into the bill that creates a dangerous precedent for everybody else (and the music services don't seem to care, since they got a license for their own incidental copies).

Here's the problem, in a nutshell: The bill suggests that even RAM buffer copies must be licensed. But incidental copies made in the course of otherwise lawful activities should be treated either as outside the scope of a copyright holder's rights or as a fair use (even the Copyright Office agrees on the fair use point).

So while the music services get the licenses they need, this creates a dangerous precedent in the Copyright Act that will come back to haunt other digital technologies that depend on incidental copies -- now the implication will be that every one of those needs a license, too. After all, Google has already faced a lawsuit from Perfect 10 claiming that browser cache copies are infringing unless authorized by the copyright owner. Should SIRA become law, you can be sure that copyright owners will cite it as evidence that Congress thinks all incidental RAM copies need to be licensed.

If the music publishers and music services want to work out a deal, that's great. It just shouldn't be at the expense of fair use for everyone else. Take action to stop SIRA now.

[Updated 6/6 with latest version of draft bill]

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