The House and Senate have been acting as branches of the recording and motion picture industries for some time, seeking to enrich those industries by assigning new “rights” to collect money for the use of creative material.

The payback for all the campaign contributions has already begun; there’s already been threats of federal prosecution for file sharing. It’s going to get worse.

Lobbyists are pressing the Senate to vote on HR2391, the “Intellectual Property Protection Act.” Here’s an article from Wired Magazine about the legislation. The industry hopes to push the bill through the Senate’s upcoming lame duck session to avoid a full debate next year that might cause people to become aware of how horrible it is.

The legislation is “a comprehensive bill that opponents charge could make many users of peer-to-peer networks, digital-music players and other products criminally liable for copyright infringement. The bill would also undo centuries of “fair use” — the principle that gives Americans the right to use small samples of the works of others without having to ask permission or pay.

“The bill lumps together several pending copyright bills including HR4077, the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act, which would criminally punish a person who “infringes a copyright by … offering for distribution to the public by electronic means, with reckless disregard of the risk of further infringement.” Critics charge the vague language could apply to a person who uses the popular Apple iTunes music-sharing application.

“The bill would also permit people to use technology to skip objectionable content — like a gory or sexually explicit scene — in films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the proposed law, skipping any commercials or promotional announcements would be prohibited. The proposed law also includes language from the Pirate Act (S2237), which would permit the Justice Department to file civil lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.

“Also under the proposed law, people who bring a video camera into a movie theater to make a copy of the film for distribution would be imprisoned for three years, fined or both.”

Don’t make the mistake of believing that this is just rhetoric! It’s technically possible to force you to watch the commercials or to prevent you from recording a TV show, for example. The industry wants to require the manufacturers of your hardware – your DVD player, your Tivo, your computer – to include controls that prevent you from fast-forwarding through a commercial, or that prevent recording of many broadcasts. The industries are seeking a radical transformation of copyright law that will affect all of us, and all of the effects are negative for consumers.

Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity is eye-opening and chilling. Highly recommended!

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