- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Technology companies took aim at the film and recording industries yesterday for their efforts to restrict how consumers use movie and music downloads.

The Digital Freedom Campaign plans to teach lawmakers, policy-makers and consumers the value of new digital technologies.

“The Digital Freedom Campaign is a way for all of us who are trying to preserve [consumer] rights and protect innovation and come together under one umbrella to make our voices heard loudly and clear,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a Washington advocacy group focused on consumers’ digital rights. “We’re tired of saying no, we want to say yes to consumer rights, innovation, creativity and competition.”

The campaign includes a Web site (www.digitalfreedom.org), which its advocates plan to use to gain support from consumers.

The campaign by the Consumer Electronics Association, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Public Knowledge and the Media Access Project, a nonprofit telecommunications law firm, says consumers should be allowed to enjoy music and video whenever and however they want, and that such freedom should be “protected and nurtured.”

The campaign plans to focus on educating the public about what rights as consumers they should and do have, something that Mr. Shapiro said more people should know.

“Go to [a] DVD and read the warning. ‘Any unauthorized use is illegal.’ That’s not true. That means fair use doesn’t exist.”

According to U.S. copyright law, “fair use” means that copyrighted materials may be used without permission provided that it is used reasonably, without impairing the value of the piece and without affecting any profits that might be going to the copyright owner.

The recording industry, which has been trying to crack down on consumers downloading and distributing music without paying for it, criticized the campaign, saying it does not take into account the copyrights of recording artists, their labels and production studios.

“To suggest that unauthorized downloading is neither ‘illegal’ nor ‘immoral’ — as you have — is not a mainstream position,” said a letter released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other music industry groups.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 ruled that popular peer-to-peer sharing sites like Kazaa were liable for copyright infringement by their users. Earlier this year, Kazaa settled a $100 million lawsuit with the recording industry for its illegal conduct.

Currently, consumers may purchase music for personal use, but cannot lawfully redistribute the works they have bought.

“To go so far as to recently label our efforts to protect our rights as ‘terrorism’ is offensive and worthy of an apology,” the RIAA letter said.

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