June 9, 2006 | By Fred von Lohmann

S1RA Update: Encouraging Signs from DC

Yesterday, the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property simultaneously introduced and approved H.R. 5553, the Section 115 Reform Act (S1RA, aka SIRA). Although the measure still contains dangerous language that threatens fair use, Representatives Boucher (D-Va.) and Lofgren (D-Ca.) both explicitly stated at the hearing that they were aware of the problems and would work to fix them before the full Judiciary Committee acts on the bill. Chairman Sensenbrenner, who runs the full committee, has also expressed a preference for a consensus draft, not one awash in the unnecessary controversy created by the dangerous language that the music publishers are trying to smuggle aboard the bill.

Here's the upshot: so far, so good. The faxes and phone calls made a difference, alerting members of Congress that the music publishers were trying to pull a fast one. If we keep the pressure up, this can hopefully be cleaned up at the full committee, resulting in a sensible, focused solution to the digital music licensing mess, rather than a vehicle that lets the music industry plant a flag on unrelated fair use turf.

It's not clear whether the full Judiciary Committee will be able to act on S1RA before the summer recess, so it's important that the members of the committee continue to hear from you. Here's the message, in a nutshell:

Digital music licensing reform is a good idea, but careful amendments are needed to ensure that:

  • if you're engaged in lawful activities, you don't need a separate copyright license for every "incidental copy" made along the way;
  • there is no implication that those who lawfully transmit over the Internet need an additional "distribution license" from copyright owners; and
  • nothing in the bill forces us (or technology companies) to pay additional license fees to enjoy our home taping rights.

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