Camera Lucida

January 21, 2006

Political activism

Filed under: Society, Tech — CL @ 3:21 pm

boing boing has a post describing the new Digital Content Protection Act of 2006. According to EFF’s analysis, the legislation would limit individuals’ use of any new emerging technology to “customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law.” As it notes,

    “Had that been the law in 1970, there would never have been a VCR. Had it been the law in 1990, no TiVo. In 2000, no iPod.”

But the bill does not impose the limit that EFF decries. Instead, it directs the FCC to develop regulations in this area, and it requires that the regulations “permit customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law”. It does not specify that those are the only uses that the FCC shall allow.

In other words, the new bill would define the minimum, not the maximum level of freedom of action. It would appear that, if this bill passes, efforts to oppose additional restrictions will need to be made when the FCC proposes new rules.

boing boing’s post is similarly misleading. It says that, under this proposal, “digital media technologies would be restricted to using technologies that had been certified by the FCC as being not unduly disruptive to entertainment industry business-models.” That sounds very scary, but I have read the new bill [PDF] (only six pages long) and I see nothing similar to that language in there.

The EFFers should heed one reality of political activism: do not misstate the person or position you oppose. Mischaracterizing what the opposition is up to will likely impair your own credibility in the eyes of the public.

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