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RIAA nemesis, Senator Coleman voices his thoughts online

'Law and technology are not in sync'

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Senator Norm Coleman is the leading figure in the US government who is showing concern about the Recording Industry Association of America’s legal suits against music lovers. The Washington Post this week posted a transcript on its web site of a chat session where questions were put to Senator Coleman.

Coleman’s position has always been that piracy is wrong, but the industry has to think carefully just how it is going to go about changing people’s attitudes.

Coleman listed three concerns about the RIAA approach.

“First, the broad grant of subpoena authority has the potential to sweep in folks who may not have done anything wrong.

“Second, the civil penalties in this area, including fines up to $150,000 per song, are clearly excessive.
They can be used to intimidate and threaten folks who may or may not have done anything wrong. We know that penalty will never be imposed. My concern is the threat of that penalty is so severe that you force someone who didn't do anything wrong to settle because of fear of bankruptcy.

“Finally, I also have concerns about the impact on personal privacy protection. The technology used by the RIAA and P2P networks has the potential to undermine personal privacy protections.”

Coleman described the new tactic of the RIAA writing to people before suing them as merely“a good first step”, and he confirmed that he didn’t think tinkering with legislation was going to solve the problem, appearing to lean towards a technological solution.

He said: “The solution must be led by the industry and be a combination of law, technology, and creative business solutions. The industry has a right to be protected, but you have to do a better job of meeting consumer needs.”

In response to one question Coleman agreed that a greater number of smaller fines would be more productive and less worrying than the huge maximum potential threat file sharers are under at the moment.

On the subject of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, he said: “I think one of the problems with the 1998 DMCA is that it was created before the advent of KaZaA, Napster and the P2P technology that is used today to facilitate illegal downloading. This is what I mean when I say the law and technology are not in sync.

“It is a great challenge for Congress to "adjust that balance" because technology changes so much quicker than the legislative process.”

© Copyright 2003 Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here

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