INDUSTRY LEADERS AND POLICYMAKERS FOCUS ON PROTECTING CONSUMER RIGHTS AT CEA'S NEW IP AND CREATIVITY CONFERENCE
Congressman Boucher and CEA's Shapiro Call on Industry To Continue the Fight to Save Betamax
The need to defend consumer's fair use rights, preserve innovation and redefine the nature of the debate over protecting intellectual property dominated the keynote presentations and panel discussions during the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) new IP and Creativity Conference: Redefining the Issue, held Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The conference attracted more than 200 representatives from the consumer electronics, technology, content creation, broadcasting, video game and cable industries along with top government officials.
The theme of the day was set in the opening keynote delivered by CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. "The technology industry, the media and the policymakers, have given the content community a free hand in defining the issues of how technology affects creativity," Shapiro stated. "The content industry has been flexible, clever and ruthless in defining the terms of the debate. I submit it is time we recast the discussion and change the language of the debate."
Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) followed Shapiro with the congressional keynote. In his address, he echoed Shapiro's comments and placed the conference in the context of the upcoming Supreme Court case, "MGM v. Grokster". He noted that the outcome of Grokster could undermine the historic Betamax case decided by the Court 20 years ago. Betamax is widely lauded as setting the framework to allow for the explosion in innovation in the United States during the last two decades. Boucher told the audience that, "the technology community must martial forces and be prepared for a legislative fight no matter the outcome of Grokster in order to ensure that the rights and freedoms that were established in the Betamax case are maintained." Boucher noted that he introduced a bill, HR-1201, in the House Committee of Energy and Commerce last week aimed at codifying the protections established in Betamax and adding an addendum to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
The impact of technology on creativity dominated the debate during the first panel session of the day - "How Technology Impacts and Encourages Creativity - What the Numbers Say." Moderator Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications, led panelists through a frank and heated discussion on the impact of peer-to-peer file sharing on record sales. Despite strong disagreements on this issue, most panelists agreed that premature regulation would stifle technological innovation and serve to protect the status quo. Panelists also discussed digital rights management and shared their feelings on legal peer-to-peer file sharing and other new business models for digital content distribution. Looking forward to next year, the panelists believe the same issue will be on the table - that is, how to manage both copy protection and innovation.
During a panel session entitled "Creativity and Innovation: Which Direction Should/Does the Law Go?" moderated by Jonathan Krim of The Washington Post, panelists largely agreed that peer-to-peer networks are here to stay and that the content industry needs to define new business models that defend fair use rights instead of trying to impose laws making them illegal. While some panelists agreed with the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) decision to sue a number of small file sharers, most believed that attempts to impede technological innovation have gone too far. "You can't hold technology responsible for the illegal activity of some users," said Stacie Rumenap of the American Conservative Union. "We have metal detectors in schools and wonder what has come of this world," said panelist Mark Cuban of HDNet. "What's next, patent attorneys in every classroom making sure little Johnny or little Susie doesn't steal copyrighted materials?