Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, today called on Congress to “revitalize fair use for the digital age.” Testifying at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, Sohn said that the U.S. copyright system has traditionally relied on a balance so that creators of works get a limited monopoly on their works and individuals get “limited, but important use of copyrighted works without having to ask permission of the copyright holder.”
That balance is being eroded through laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and end user license agreements, Sohn said. The result has been that “a number of legal, technological and marketplace efforts by the content industry have put fair use in great peril.”
The fair use concept should encompass developments such as people viewing movies and TV programs on cell phones, or the face that more than half of teens create their own content on the Internet, Sohn said. Fair use policy should make certain that consumers are able to play digital material on any device they own, which the DMCA today prevents them from doing, she added.
In order to revitalize fair use, Sohn suggested Congress: (1) make certain that the DMCA protects fair use. (2) reject efforts to impose government-mandated copy protection. (3) pass legislation to protect individuals who make a good faith effort to find copyright holders who can't be found. (4) monitor the Google Print project and related matters to make certain that search engines can continue to provide consumers with a “comprehensive card catalog” of information.
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