Though it passed with wide bipartisan support, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act’s flaws are manifold. Anti-circumvention measures that make changing a protected iTunes download into a format you can play on a Zune (as if anyone buys those!) illegal, for example. But one of the more glaring, in light of a marketplace in which copyrighted material is malleable and can be reproduced at no cost, is its vagueness on fair use. A consumer’s right to burn a CD of something they purchased on iTunes, or sample a few seconds in a remix both fall under this category.
Since the DMCA’s passage in 1998, sorting out this necessarily muddled category has been left to the courts. The anti-circumvention provisions were largely overturned, but “space shifting,” that is, ripping DVDs, is still illegal.
Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the congressman who led Republican opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) plans to introduce legislation to clarify that making personal copies of copyrighted material, in any form, is lawful.
Issa has been positioning himself as the Internet’s biggest defender in the Republican Party. He recently expressed support, via Twitter, for Derek Khanna’s memo on copyright reform that was retracted by the RSC, calling the proposal “very interesting,” and saying “it’s time to start the copyright reform conversation.”
Roll Call reports that he intends to work with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a major strong-IP proponent, to get his fair use bill passed:
Now Issa plans to work with incoming Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., who currently heads the intellectual property subpanel, to make digital rights a priority in the new Congress. “This opinion puts us in a position that makes it essential to be acted on in the next Congress,” Issa said. He expects the Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on copyright and piracy issues early next year. He does not have a measure ready to introduce but has reviewed legislative proposals and said he would like to present draft language to Goodlatte if the chairman takes up the issue.
Bloomberg BNA wonders where Goodlatte’s priorities lie:
It could be that Issa senses that by supporting copyright reform the GOP can make inroads into the coveted youth vote—a vote that Obama handily won in the 2012 election. And to be sure there is little doubt that Issa’s populist stance on some of these issues will attract tremendous support from certain online communities. However, it remains to be seen if he can work with U.S. Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), who might be the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to advance his causes.
Goodlatte would replace the House Judiciary Committee’s outgoing chair Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Texas), the sponsor—and one of the biggest supporters—of Sopa. Goodlatte also supported the doomed bill, however, he was quicker than Smith to acknowledge Sopa’s shortcomings. … Assuming Issa introduces his fair use clarification bill, it will be interesting to see what sort of priority it is given by Goodlatte.
A bill clarifying the fair use provision of the DMCA seems relatively minor, something even Rep. Goodlatte, an original sponsor of SOPA, could get behind. It’s possible that the GOP might trump up a fair use bill as a sop to young people and tech voters, to avoid a serious stab at copyright reform. If Issa tried anything bigger, one speculates that Goodlatte might balk. The $10,000 he received from the RIAA this election cycle certainly seems like it might put a damper on his cooperation.