In One Eye

Saturday, November 29, 2003
 
Once again, the federal legislature shows its ties to big business.
Just weeks after an antitrust suit was filed against the RIAA by webcasters [link here], the music labels' lobby group, is, along with Hollywood, seeking a permanent exemption from similar litigation. The proposal seeks to extend the exemption to anything covering mechanical copyright: a sweeping extension of the copyright cartel's immunity.

It's buried away in a piece of legislation co-sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch called the EnFORCE Act, or the Enhancing Federal Obscenity Reporting and Copyright Enforcement Act of 2003. With 12-year old girls being threatened with $150,000 fines, and the computer industry embracing social engineering technologies such as locked music, you would think the last thing that the nation's cultural heritage needs is stricter enforcement by the copyright cartel.
I'd like to think that this type of legislation is unconstitutional due to the Sony v. Universal case of 1984, but it looks as if whores like Hatch can get their way.

Specifically, in that decision, the US Supreme Court averred that because the technology has changed, copyright rules must change accordingly. But the Court also said that such rules must be legislated.
Sound policy, as well as history, supports our consistent deference to Congress when major technological innovations alter the market for copyrighted materials. Congress has the constitutional authority and the institutional ability to accommodate fully the varied permutations of competing interests that are inevitably implicated by such new technology.
In fact, it gets worse as the Court re-emphasizes the penalties for copyright infringement, noting that
The Copyright Act provides the owner of a copyright with a potent arsenal of remedies against an infringer of his work, including an injunction to restrain the infringer from violating his rights, the impoundment and destruction of all reproductions of his work made in violation of his rights, a recovery of his actual damages and any additional profits realized by the infringer or a recovery of statutory damages, and attorney's fees.
This litany sure does sound like some of the tactics the RIAA has used.

So, it sounds as if the US Supreme Court allows Congress to do pretty much whatever it wants to protect copyrighted material. Nevertheless, it's seems a bit much to proscribe any kind of litigation against the recording and motion picture behemoths.