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Rep. John Conyers defends proposed law to plug "analog hole"

Rep. John Conyers defends proposed law to plug "analog hole"
Rep. John Conyers defends proposed law to plug "analog hole"

News coverage and link to bill: 
"A new proposal in Congress could please Hollywood studios, which are 
increasingly worried about Internet piracy, by embedding anticopying 
technology into the next generation of digital video products."
"If the legislation were enacted, one year later it would outlaw the 
manufacture or sale of electronic devices that convert analog video 
signals into digital ones--unless those encoders honor an anticopying 
plan designed to curb redistribution. Affected devices would include 
PC-based tuners and digital video recorders."


Comment #96: JC said on 12/19/05 @ 7:16pm ET...

I have been hearing today that a lively discussion is taking place
around the internet about my cosponsorship of the =93Digital Transition
Content Security Act,=94 a bill that attempts to plug the =93analog hole.=94
Because the tone of some of these discussions has become so vitriolic, I
decided to respond here.

First, some who disagree with my cosponsorship of this bill have imputed
motives to me in a manner that I think is unfair. My cosponsorship has
been labeled a =93sell out,=94 a =93giveaway=94 or a =93handout=94 to the
movie/music industry, among other things. It has been said that I must
have had =93a lot of [my] time bought by the content industries=94 to
cosponsor this bill.

The content industries would be very surprised to hear these
assessments, which belie a great unfamiliarity with my legislative
record and statements about these issues. Over a more than 40 year
Congressional career, I have stood up clearly and consistently for the
artists and others who work in the content industry. In my view, they
are being squeezed from two sides. When it comes to working and
contractual conditions, they are squeezed by the content industry. When
it comes to piracy, they are being squeezed by illegal file sharing.
Collectively, this squeeze has led to a lower standard of living for
artists and lower profile workers in the content industry.

To say I am somehow beholden to the content industry ignores a number of
actions I have taken. Here are a few from recent years. At a meeting of
the Future of Music Coalition (an artists=92 rights group) in 2002, I
rebuked the industry saying =93[t]echnology is forcing the record labels
and the artists and the writers and the composers to come
together...[t]he Internet says to the industry that you folks are
yesterday's news, you're following outdated models, your business
strategies don't work anymore, and your profit motive is showing rather
vulgarly." I also proposed a series of reforms to benefit artists that
was strongly opposed by the RIAA.

When the recording industry slipped a provision to reclassify recording
artists songs as =93work for hire=94 into a satellite television bill and
thereby deprived artists of reversionary rights to their songs, I fought
back, saying among other things, =93[i]t is about time we separate the
people in the recording industry from the recording artists. I keep
hearing from the recording industry telling me what the recording
artists want. I know a few recording artists, and we will be checking on
this. This is appropriately a sensitive subject.=94 I have been outspoken
about the industry practice of pay for play (or =93payola=94) as well.

When the film studios have moved film production to Canada or overseas,
thus costing American workers their jobs, I stood up to them.

When the publishing industry sought to deprive freelance writers of
their rights (something fellow Kos poster Jonathan Tasini knows quite a
bit about), I introduced a bill to protect freelance writers,
illustrators, cartoonists, graphic designers, and photographers. The
publishers did not like that very much.

I hear from lots of people that artists don=92t care about piracy. While
it is true that some artists struggling to make it into the business
don=92t mind file sharing because it exposes their songs to a wider
audience, many =96 many =96 artists have come directly to me saying that
piracy is threatening their ability to make a living. I have heard
similar complaints from animators, writers, grips, and cameramen, who
have seen job opportunities diminish in part because of piracy.

To be sure, as I have said above, piracy is not the whole problem =96
industry practices are part of the problem as well, but it is part of
the problem. So what should we do about it?

Some say we do not need to do anything because uploading digital content
is already illegal. In a digital world, and an internet that spans the
globe, locating people who steal content is nearly impossible in some
cases. The costs of one such act of piracy can be astronomical.

So we turn to market forces and technology. In terms of market forces, I
have consistently criticized both the recording industry and now
Hollywood for being too slow to adapt to the digital world. For years, I
was told that you simply =93can=92t compete with free.=94 I believe the advent
of online digital music sales has shown that to be a falsehood. Music is
still available for free through illegal downloading services, yet
Apple=92s iTunes music service has sold hundreds of millions of downloads.
At the same time, it is a fact that rampant piracy of songs on the
internet persists. The market doesn=92t take care of everything.

So we turn to technology. We are now in a debate about whether copyright
owners have a right to limit uses of the content they own the rights to;
if so, what limitations are appropriate and how we ensure that those
limitations are respected. One answer is found in the iPod and iTunes
music store. Music purchased through the music store is subject to
limitations which iTunes and the iPod attempt to ensure aren=92t violated.

We are engaged in a debate about whether similar technology that
recognizes limitation imposed by the copyright owner should be required
in other devices. My cosponsorship of this bill is intended to start
that debate, not end it.

I have said repeatedly that any legislation affecting the ability of
consumers to use content must be carefully balanced to respect consumer
expectations and rights and, of course, fair use. I certainly understand
that there are some who believes this bill falls short in this regard,
and would welcome an open and civil dialogue about those concerns.

However, Tuesday I have long planned a major announcement that I think
will be welcomed by many participants on this blog. At this point I
would request that you allow me some time to work on that, with my
commitment to return and discuss this issue in more detail.
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