Hands up, and drop the IPOD!

Filed under: Opinion |

With the onset of digital services in our country comes a plethora of policy and legal issues that we have never faced before in the arena of copyright and intellectual property rights.

For a long time, copyright holders of music, movies and photos have suffered extensive illegal duplication of their works. But the new digital world recreates a copy just as high in quality as the original, and the increasing potential for theft by duplication is unprecedented. Today, most computers are equipped at the store with CD and DVD burners that make it easy for anyone to copy music ¾ or anything else ¾ for their own private use. Some will use that technology to make a huge illegal profit from duplicating the materials and marketing them to the public.

As people find it easier to copy restricted material, they often forget (or conveniently don’t remember) that it is illegal. The Recording Industry Association of America reports that 97 percent of peer-to-peer transactions are illegal.

People need to care that copying protected material is illegal. And encryption technology must be created to make it more difficult to copy these works. The war continues between Hollywood and the music industry versus the equipment manufacturers.

The government or the owners of such copyrighted material have sprung into action to educate (or more often scare off) the perpetrators. Recently, media companies acquired information through Internet service providers on individuals who did the most copying. Then, they pursued legal action. In July, the federal government attempted to step in with the Induce Act, sponsored by Senators Orin Hatch and Patrick Lahey.

The Induce Act is a bill that proposes to penalize companies that “induce” or encourage buyers to make illegal copies of copyrighted materials including music, movies and photos. Under such a law, IPods, MP3 players, DVD and CD burners all would be subject to sanction. But photocopiers and VCRs would not be affected by this legislation. The landmark “Betamax Case” from decades ago protects home recorders as long as they are used primarily for legal purposes.

The bill is extreme in that it would kill technical innovation and render useless the millions of digital recording devices across America. Let’s get real.

James N. Morgese is the president and general manager of Rocky Mountain PBS.