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US group combats copyright

Digital Freedom partners target copyright laws

It's time for consumers, musicians and filmmakers to band together and advocate copyright laws that make sense for them, not for large music labels and movie studios, a group of advocacy groups said during the launch of the Digital Freedom campaign yesterday.

Representatives of groups including Public Knowledge, EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and CEA (the Consumer Electronics Association) said they will work for new copyright laws that "restore the balance" between protecting artists and allowing consumers to control where to listen to or watch digital works.

For too long, music and movie companies have won the fight in the US Congress, restricting what consumers can do with digital content, said Gary Shapiro, CEA's president and CEO. In the past 40 years, Congress has broadened copyright law more than a dozen times, he said.

"For 40 years now, the content industry has had a free ride," he said. "It's not just about a few big companies right now. It's about consumers."

Members of the new Digital Freedom coalition said they will begin to offer alternative copyright proposals to combat the restrictions sought by the music and movie industries. Several laws proposed in Congress during the past two years would restrict consumers' ability to play music or movies on devices of their choice, the group said.

But others questioned the goals of the Digital Freedom campaign. A number of groups representing musicians sent a letter to the CEA this week accusing the group of "ratcheting up the rhetoric" instead of working with the music industry.

"Our position is basic: artists, songwriters, music publishers, musicians and record labels deserve to be paid when our music is downloaded and enjoyed by fans," said the letter, signed by 11 music trade groups, including the National Music Publishers' Association, the Recording Artists' Coalition and the Recording Industry Association of America. "We ask that you recognise our right to make a fair return on the music we produce – our innovation."

But participants in the Digital Freedom campaign said the balance between copyright and consumers' fair-use rights have swung too far in favour of big entertainment companies and away from consumers and even artists.

"If people cannot use digital media to express themselves to others without big content or Big Brother looking over their shoulder, the benefits of the digital revolution will be lost," said Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a tech trade group.


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