Bills proposed to protect fair use

— 4:06 PM on October 2, 2002

This week, the US Congress will see a couple of new bills that aim to clarify a consumer's right to make copies of digital works for personal use. Though their late introduction means the bills won't become law before the end of the year, they do show that at least some representatives are willing to stand up for fair use.

The bills also would amend a 1998 law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that makes it a crime to circumvent technological protections built in to copyrighted works. Instead, consumers would be allowed to bypass the technology if the intent is to make a copy for personal use.
With the exception of the RIAA and MPAA, I think just about everyone can agree that allowing personal copies of digital media is The Right Thing. However, whether DRM technologies will actually allow, or even be required to allow personal copies remains to be seen. I suppose I could live with having the legal right to circumvent copyright technology if I'm making a personal copy, but I think a far more powerful bill would require DRM technology to allow personal copies in the first place.

Of course, the proposed bills only aim to protect the right to make personal copies, and not the perceived right to share those copies with millions over a P2P network. But that got me thinking, what if someone came up with a P2P network that embodied the lending and borrowing of CDs between individuals? How viable, legally and technologically, would a P2P network be that let you borrow from a huge pool of personal media libraries?

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