May 17, 2004 | By Fred von Lohmann

The Hon. Al Swift, Home Recordist

The most remarkable testimony at last week's DMCRA hearings was that of former Congressman Allan Swift.

Swift was testifying as a private citizen, as a "home recordist." Basically, he's been making "mix tapes" for 54 years:

In that time, I have given friends many tapes, cassettes and now CDs containing "programs" I have created from my own collection of LPs and CDs. In that time, I have never made a straight duplicate of a record for anyone. If they ask me to, I tell them politely how easy is it to buy it on the Internet. In that time I have never charged a person a penny - even for the cost of the raw cassette or CD blank. It is just my hobby.

As a copyright lawyer, I know that copyright has a complicated relationship with "home taping." But Swift's testimony tells us how the law ought to be. No member of the committee dared to call him a pirate (with the notable exception of Rep. Mary Bono, who appears not to have learned much since announcing that we should enact a copyright term of "forever less one day").

Perhaps it's time we all focus more on the fans, the people who actually make the entertainment industry possible. For them, we need a copyright law that lives up to Swift's simple statement of common sense:

When I buy a CD or a DVD, that content should be wholly mine to do with as I please as long as I am in no way selling its contents or profiting from it. ... Present law is predicated on the assumption that consumers will rip-off copyright holders. The vast majority are innocent of that assumption, but all are treated as guilty.


Deeplinks Topics

Stay in Touch

NSA Spying

EFF is leading the fight against the NSA's illegal mass surveillance program. Learn more about what the program is, how it works, and what you can do.

Follow EFF

We're searching for a top-notch writer who loves tech policy to come work full-time at EFF. Apply today: https://eff.org/r.w0no

Jul 1 @ 1:43pm

Politico has a newly leaked draft of TPP's secret IP chapter, and it's found some serious problems. https://eff.org/r.9rxd

Jul 1 @ 11:47am

New research shows a link between Internet shutdowns and state violence in Syria: https://eff.org/r.l03h

Jul 1 @ 10:22am
JavaScript license information