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Tech giants back Fair Use bills

Chipzilla blesses Boucher

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The IT industry's giants including Intel will rally behind a bill to be announced by Congressman Rick Boucher in Washington DC, tomorrow morning.

Boucher's bill complements the first significant measure proposed to tame the Pigopolists, and protect Fair Use in the wake of the DMCA, which was published today by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (San Jose-D).

Lofgren's proposed "Digital Choice And Freedom Act Of 2002" (DCFA) [summary ; full text] will ensure that consumers will be able to make copies, sell or reuse digital media they own; prohibits non-negotiable shrink wrap licenses and decriminalizes non-infringing circumvention devices.

Boucher's bill will specify that share denial CDs are labeled clearly, and like Lofgren's attempt to superseded the draconian provisions of the DMCA.

"Boucher would essentially reverse the outcome, and fix the problems that gave us the 2600 case, the Felten case and the Sklyarov prosection," the EFF's Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann told us today.

Intel's director of legal affairs and technology policy Doug Comer will be in Washington DC at the unveiling of the Boucher Bill.

"Boucher has been floating this concept and was talking to us early on," spokesman Bill Collyer told us. "We strongly support fair use."

"Consumers should know when they buy their favorite CD it's going to work in all of their devices," said Collyer.

Neither Boucher nor Lofgren intend to legitimize the widespread piracy of digital music.

"Blackbox type technologies purpose built for specifically for infringement would properly be banned by the DMCA and I have no problem with that, for example the smartcards that have been specifically programmed to bypass DirectTV's encryption - I can't see a legitimate non-infringing use for that," said Von Lohmann.

LaGrande Fromage

We asked both Intel and the EFF if a successful passage of this legislation would accelerate TCPA-style architectures, of which LaGrande is the hardware enabler, and Palladium an instance.

We asked Intel's Collyer if he felt that the bills could take the political sting out of TCPA systems. He declined to answer directly - Intel characterizes LaGrande as an enabler of DRM systems - but said it was accurate to describe Intel as having a twin-track approach: developing restriction technology - "we're founded on intellectual property," he told us - and supporting fair use protection.

Would we see DRM systems flexible enough to please Hollywood, but not be a burden to the consumer?

"There is no one single silver bullet that will always be uncrackable; we have been working on copy protection technologies. But we don't think that the solution is broad government mandates of the kind that have been proposed by the Hollings Bill," thinks Collyer.

"The vast majority of people are honest and want to use their content in a lawful and fair manner; but you will also have those who attempt to perform illegal acts"

Microsoft doesn't want to be in the position of policing the technology, says the EFF's Seth Schoen.

"They're not eager to sue people for circumvention," he says.

Von Lohmann thought the reverse might be true: Hollywood might lose the appetite for ramming DRM down an unwilling public's throat.

"That would be nice and is a plausible outcome. The chief argument Hollywood will roll out in opposing these measures is that they have no legal recourse against people who hack their DRM system," he told us.

"There is no one single silver bullet that will always be uncrackable; we have been working on CP technologies but we don't think that the solution is broad government mandates of the kind that have been prop by the Hollings Bill."

We think it could go both ways. Successful passage of the bills could make it more likely that Palladium and LaGrande are enacted: as a technology solution, Hollywood could insist on it and in the political horse trading, this could become part of a deal.

Collyer said Intel had yet to digest Lofgren's bill fully, but said "we applaud her efforts in that direction."

MPAA president Jack Valenti predictably objected to legislation designed to defang the Pigopolists.

"If this bill were to pass, it would render ineffective, worthless and useless any protection measure we would have in place to protect a $100 million movie… You could download a million movies a day, and no penalty for it," he told the San Jose Mercury.

A million? Right.

Now we just need to get the Bills passed. ®

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