BREAKING: ECA Takes a Stand on Fair Use, Disses DMCA

October 26, 2007 -

Gamers, the Entertainment Consumers Association officially has your back.

Later today the ECA will announce its support for HR1201, known as the Fair Use Act of 2007. The move represents the ECA's first foray into the legislative arena.

HR1201 was originally introduced in Congress by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Charlie Wyatt (R-CA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). The proposed legislation seeks to restore the historical balance in copyright law and return to consumers many of the fair use rights lost with the 1998 passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

As a practical matter, the DMCA has been wielded like a club against consumers by corporate interests such as the RIAA, MPAA and Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents U.S. video game publishers. (see: Fear & Loathing Over Feds' Mod Chip Sting)

Of his proposal to modify the consumer-unfriendly DMCA, Rep. Boucher writes:
 

For example, under [the consumer-oriented] bill a user may circumvent an access control on an electronic book he purchased for the purpose of reading it on a different electronic reader.


Circumventing access control? Why, that could mean bypassing the region code lockout to play a Japanese game release on your modded console, and what's so bad about that? Nothing, except that under the DMCA, you're a criminal. Say hello to the friendly federal agent knocking at your door.

Of the move, ECA president Hal Halpin (top left) said:
 

We understand and respect the careful balance that must exist between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of consumers of copyrighted material. We believe in the protection of intellectual property while maintaining consumers’ rights, and ability to lawfully use acquired media for non-commercial purposes. Additionally, digital rights issues should be subject to private sector inter-industry resolution rather than government imposed intervention.


Rep. Boucher (left), sponsor of the Fair Use Act, added:
 

The fair use doctrine is threatened today as never before.  Historically, the nation’s copyright laws have reflected a carefully calibrated balance between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of the users of copyrighted material. 

We have introduced the Fair Use Act to restore this balance, and correct the Fair Use disparities created by the DMCA.  I am thrilled to enlist the support of the ECA in this effort to ensure that consumers who purchase digital media can enjoy a broad range of uses of the media for their own convenience in a way which does not infringe the copyright in the work.


GP: For those gamers who have been waiting to see what the ECA is all about, here's the answer - or at least the beginning of the answer. I'm really proud to see the organization take a stand like this on behalf of game consumers, a stand that is 180 degrees from the position of the video game industry.

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.  


Comments

woohoo! this means that i have to sign up with the ECA as soon as i can get the money for it!

Hal has got this right. Excellent job, Hal. Now on some other issues....

@Jes,
Actually, it only important for computer owners in the US, because other countries already have sensible laws.

Although, if I get the chance, I will try to read the actual bill today, if only out of curiousity about the actual details of what the bill does and what exactly, it defines as fair use. The other thing that occurs to me is I wonder where the EFF sits on it. I suppose it's kind of arrogant to think anyone but Dennis can get a message through to Hal, but it seems to me if you guys really want to get serious about it, maybe the ECA should call the EFF. Seems like the two organizations could probably make a bigger impression defending the bill together. Unified front and all that.

Free the flag boys! BlackIce supports from across the waves.

@Jackie

Issues like you maybe? Sorry mate, you're the court's problem.

Nice.

:D

Soo damn happy about this!

dugg.

[...] [Source: GamePolitics] [...]

@GP: I just looked at the page and it says the title of the bill is the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act.

Very, very good news. Now lets just hope this passes(Crosses fingers)!

One thing to say.

DAMN STRAIGHT!!

ECA, ECA, ECA.

This is something I've been waiting to hear for years.

As a long time importer, I love this idea.

Indeed.

I'm glad to see this coming through.

Please, please let this act pass.

Does this mean that there will be no more region coding???? So I can play games from any country??? :D

@Daniel

In theory, yes.

good, now i feel much better about being an ECA member and won't have to cancel my membership.

down with the DMCA.

I am glad to see this move by the ECA. This is one of the things that seems to be holding some people back from joining and hopefully they will join now.

@ all who hope this bill passes

Write your Senators and Representatives. Send them email and real mail. You must get them to realize that you want this to go through.

If you don't know who your reps and sens are start here:

http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

From there you can find them and write them. I also encourage you to write the President and let him know you want this to pass.

Besides that, tell everyone you know and have them do the same. THis will only pass if the citizens voice our support.

Hal Halpin, you are awesome.

OOOH YEAH, BOIIIII!
/Go Go Parody Rangers! reference

@ Wacko Jacko

Oh this is much more important than your little sorry hide. This is important for just about EVERY PRIVATE COMPUTER OWNER IN THE WORLD.

Not just your sorry little egoistic hide.


As for the news itself. Finally, we're on the right track for PROPER consumer/copyright-holder relations, instead of the "bend over will ya?" attitude most larger firms run with these days.

Way to go, ECA!

@ JT

This is not 'JackSatanThompson.net,' where you're more important than the world you're living on. Nobody cares about you anymore. Get that through your head. You've drilled yourself down to the point where even Britney Spears is more interesting than you are. And that's pretty freaking hard to do.

E. Zachary Knight beat me to the post, so I second his motion. I am writing my letters and e-mails tonight, as well as informing all of my gamer and dev friends to have them join in.

The voice of the citizen is a powerful one. I don't know why the events in the past 30 years have resulted in Americans believing they have no power and rights in their own country, but this is a great opportunity to shatter that misconception.

Don't let the ECA go at this alone. They are entering a battlefield claiming to represent a vast number US citizens who want this act passed. Let us show our numbers now.

@E.ZK & GameDevMich

Can I bring out the Red Banner? Sorry, I just enjoy waving that flag.

Huzzah!

DRM has gone too far. The most blatant abuses have been the Sony Rootkit and the Starforce DRM, both of which attacked the users' systems and did not stop piracy, but I've had problems running DVDs and some games on my old systems thanks to the copy protection, which does not let me use my legally purchased material. Glad to know we have backup.

WAAAGH!

While I usually applaud any stand taken against the DRM nazis, I fail to see how how supporting a bill that likely won't pass constitutes "having our back". Don't mistake me, if it actually does pass I'll be amazed, and willingly renounce my own statements and apologize for them. However, I think it's a pretty good assumption that previously mentioned DRM cops will rally against it and congress as a rule of thumb is full of stodgy conservatives who will likely oppose it anyway.

@jadedcritic

Godwin's Law.

Well said, well said.

Alright, this is good to see.

Some politician standing up for the people's rights.

To be specific, for the rights of the owners of electronics.

@jack thompson, attorney

Don't even TRY to act like you're on his side on this issue. You've been trying to fight against the rights of digital media consumers, so don't even start.

@ Jadedcritic

Considering we are the ones who have the power to keep the politicians in office, I think we hold much more weight than any lobbiest, but only if we stand together. If only a handful of voters write their reps, then this bill is in vain. But if a majority of their voters write in, they will know that if they go against the voice of the people, they won't be in office for much longer.

At least that is the take I have on politics.

@Austin Lewis

When was the last time you saw that happen?

This is a cool quote (say hello to your mod chip):

Reestablishes Betamax Standard. The DMCRA also would specify that it is not a violation of Section 1201 of the DMCA to manufacture, distribute, or make non-infringing use of a hardware or software product capable of enabling significant non-infringing use of a copyrighted work. By re-establishing the principle set forth in Sony v. Universal City Studios, 464 U.S. 417 (1984), this provision is intended to ensure that consumers will have access to hardware and software products by which to engage in the activities authorized by the legislation.

@E. Zachary Knight

Awesome!!!! That means the equation possession = intent means nothing. And this is how it should be. as long as the person isn't making any money, it should be ok.

Wow, it looks like I'll be RENEWING my ECA fee when it comes due in 2008, mainly because of this stance against this bad anti-consumer law.

Thanks Hal!

@BlackIce, Leftie

Yeah, I'm aware of Godwin, but it was bound to happen; and let's face it, the DRM cops are about as crazy as, if not crazier then Jack Thompson - so, frankly, there's only so many appropriate ways to describe them.

@E. Zachary Knight

I'm not convinced it's a question of simple activism. Break it down for a moment. Congress is majority democrats, minority republican, and the way things are going with Iraq and the Bush administration's near utter failure to work any real domestic policy - it's a pretty good bet that the republicans are out with the next election and they probably know it anyway. At the very least, it's an uphill campaign for them, just being republican.

But when it comes to down consumer rights issues and fair use, generation gaps are a big part of that. There's a fundamental assumption floating around that fair use is what the seller says it is, not what the consumer says it is. Older generations are far more willing to accept that (as a rule of thumb) then younger ones. Of course, that's a stereotype in and of itself. Frankly, my father's well into his 60's and he's actually far more open source/fair use then I am. I meant it when I said congress is mostly full of stodgy conservatives (regardless of party affiliation). I read an article on Slashdot which was borderline offensive, essentially detailing that fair use isn't a legitimate defense.

Put simply, the reason that I don't think any amount of activism will really help at this point is because the kinds of candidates running for office that we have to choose from are all more likely to support corporate rights over consumer, BECAUSE supporting consumer rights means directly challenging laws that are already in place, and a good deal of what we as a society have come to believe in terms of ethics. It's always easier to accept something then challenge it. Most people aren't willing to reconsider their own morality structure. Take bittorrent as an example. Most people think it's wrong. They think it's wrong because they accept the idea that most torrents are of morally questionable material. There's allot of truth to that. Torrent isn't inherently evil by itself, but it is used quite a bit to pass along material that maybe shouldn't be. Out of those people, less are willing to revaluate their opinions on the subject. Especially not congress, why? Because they've got coporate agents sitting on their collective shoulders whispering to the contrary. (Because the corporate stance is that Torrent has no legitimate purpose other then passing contraband).

I tend to think the only ways consumer rights will change much isn't through lobbyists. Figure either time will take over, and congress members will start coming from later generations that think differently, or the consumers will align and exercise the only real option we have. Economic force. Vote with your wallets. Support those that don't abuse consumer rights, and don't those that do. That may bring about real change, but the public is pretty unlikely to do that to. Two reasons, 1) we're lazy, and aren't often willing to make personal sacrifices for causes like this, 2) we're like congress, in the sense that huge chunks of the population believe that fair use is what the seller says it is.

OK, end rant. = ) Gotta go to work anyway.

Interesting. So the ECA does support it members/consumers.

Quick question. I've seen a large number of flash animations that use video game sprites. Does that violate the DMCA? If so, does the DMCRA allow a person to use them in nonprofit productions?

@ EZK

Didn't you suggest a "law" that the first person to mention Jack in an unrelated story loses 10,000 credibility? If we apply that here, who loses it? Jack himself?

When we moved towards licensing instead of selling, the whole software industry got all fucked up. As consumers we lose so many of our rights to use our purchased products in a way we choose. To make something criminal just because corporations want it is NOT protecting the population. The DMCA did nothing except give corporate fat cats a way to enforce their own warped sense of property rights. Nice to finally see some work in the other direction.

(Where's HappyPuppy to pee on the DMCA when you need them? Good times... good times)

Here is the text of the bill. It is titled the "Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship Act of 2007" for some reason, but it is all in there:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/C?c110:./temp/~c110AAIrXx

@ Jadedcritic

I understand your position. It is difficult to get people to move from positions they have become complacent in. I for one am not one of those people and I feel that activism is the proper way to go about getting change. If the only voices being heard by Congress are the voices of big business lobbiests, then the people have failed.

I am not saying that just voicing our opinions will get change rolling. Yet, if we are serious about them and speak with our votes as well, then politicians will get the idea.

@Jadedcritic - Excellent rant, I enjoyed reading it.

You are definitely acknowledging the obvious. Quite a few elected officials favor the requests and rights of corporations over the common man. General laziness and self-induced defeatism of the average consumer/citizen perpetuates the cycle.

I too believe there will be a change in the future as our generation comes into power, but I believe more action is required. Yes, economic force will be a driving factor. However, this is our chance to shake the laziness from our system and get involved. Imagine this beautiful scenario (which I do not think is naive or impossible):

Actively voicing our opinions and supporting those fighting for us will garner attention and momentum. If the act is passed, those who were involved (the lobbyist and consumers) will be filled with the confidence that they were listened to and made a difference. Those people will then have the confidence to step up to the plate for other issues not involving electronic entertainment consumption.

*Apologies for the double posting, but:*

E. Zachary Knight - Let me know if you are ever in Orlando, 'cause you and I need to grab a beer. My treat

I am filled with pride for the ECA in taking this stand. I, too, will be writing letters, and trying to spread the word on this bill.

Can I bring the Red Banner out? I enjoy revolutions.

It's good to see someone taking a stand, but I will wait to see what effect this will have. One thing is for certain, doing nothing gets us nowhere so Hal has my full support.

(And a quick note. Jack doesn't have to be disingenuous on everything he says just because of his views on other matters. There will always be common ground so lets give him the benefit of the doubt on this issue and oppose him where it is needed.)

This answers the one lingering concern I had over the ECA, and its great news. I am definitely renewing my membership now.

Once the anti-game crowd is quelled (or they die of old age), this is perhaps the biggest issue to surround videogames...or any other medium.

@ GameDevMich

Make it a Rootbeer and you have a deal. :)

@ BlackIce

Alright go have fun. ;)

Regardless of if the legislation will pass or not, this is a promising sign. I know that alot of consumer groups have skirted the DMCA issue (and following the RIAA cases I get to see the full brunt of how they are abused on a daily basis), so it is tremendously refreshing to see an organization stepping up to the plate and finally saying that they are endorsing a less corporate controller, more common sense environment.

As for the comments on Mr. Thompson. I am not one to burn bridges, and can suffer slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In the digital age where the little guy has to pony up $220k to a group of Record labels for 24 songs, the little guy needs all the help they can get, be it from the ECA or an individual you normally would not give the time of day.

@E.ZK

:D

:D...

Shit. Smileys aren't working..
 
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