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DMCA architect lambasts music moguls

It's your fault we're back to the Mozart era

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Bruce Lehman, key architect of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), has admitted that copyright protection law is failing.

The Clinton-era assistant secretary of commerce and commissioner of patents and trademarks put most of the blame for the DMCA's shortcomings on the recording industry.

He said music industry "moguls" failed to adapt and create an attractive marketplace for music in the late 1990s. Recording industry execs had little idea about technology development and were reluctant to embrace new distribution technologies, Lehman argued.

Lehman made his comments during a panel discussion during a conference on copyright in Montreal last week (extended video clip here).

During the presentation, he explained the DMCA was designed to create a framework for copyright that brought existing laws up to date, protecting intellectual property rights, in the expectation that hi-tech jobs would become the mainstay of the US economy. Measures in the DMCA, which Lehman acknowledged were controversial, made it an offence to circumvent copyright-protection technology.

"Unfortunately, at least in some areas, our policies haven't worked out too well and it's not for the want of trying," he said. "Our attempts at copyright control have been unsuccessful. At least in terms of music, I think we're entering a 'post-copyright era'."

Copyright was a good model for compensating artists, but music thrived before modern copyright law, Lehman notes. He suggested new economic models based more heavily on concert revenue, t-shirts sales, and other sources of revenue need to be developed. Broadcasters like XM and Sirius might "commission" songs, he added.

The film industry, unlike the music industry, didn't put out its works in unencrypted form so it is in a better position to use technology in protecting its work, according to Lehman. ®

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