With New Report, U.S. Prepares To Update Outdated Copyright Rules

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The wheels are in motion for a much needed update to this country’s copyright rules, but the only problem is that these new rules seem to have been written by the very same people who thrust the DMCA upon us so many years ago. What fun!

The 2010 U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Annual Report on Intellectual Property [PDF here], written at the behest of President Obama, proscribes a number of measures to be taken in order to update American laws vis-à-vis copyright and intellectual property. On the surface that sounds great: it’s about time we took an updated look at the way copyright works in the country.

But before you get too excited you’d do well to read the introductory letter and the full introduction. Nothing there really screams “updated view on copyright” so much as it does “we’re doubling down on copyright infringement enforcement.” One example: go ahead and search the PDF for the phrase “fair use.” Maybe I’m blind, but I can’t seem to find it. I guess fair use is one of those things that endangers America’s ability to innovate.

Some of the document doesn’t really apply to us here—I don’t recall writing too many posts about illegal online pharmacies—but there are segments that are worth your attention.

Lack of intellectual property enforcement in the digital environment, by contrast, threatens to destabilize rule-of-law norms, with severe effects on jobs and economic growth. Undermining respect for rule-of-law values impacts a range of other policy goals affected by the Internet (e g , privacy). In short, criminal laws and intellectual property laws that apply in the physical world are based on a tradition of rules, checks and balances that must be applied to and tailored to the digital world.

I agree: illegally downloading an album should probably result in a $100 shoplifting fee, and not a several-thousand-dollar lawsuit that ruins your life. Or am I being naive?

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