August 11, 2004 · Rick Boucher
When disruptive new technologies have emerged that changed the way in which consumers have gotten access to news and entertainment (e.g., radio and cable television), the existing legal structures of the Copyright Act often could not accommodate the challenges posed by the new technology. In the early case of piano rolls and later with radio and cable television, for example, Congress adopted compulsory licensing legislation as a means of appropriately compensating content owners while simultaneously encouraging widespread use of the new technologies.
With P2P music file sharing, we have witnessed a range of dramatic responses from the content owning community: massive lawsuits against individuals, including innocent children and grandparents; invasive efforts to get customer information without the intervention of a judge through misuse of administrative subpoena provisions of title II of the DMCA; and now the Induce Act in the Senate.
Fred von Lohmann and his colleagues at EFF have suggested an innovative alternative to litigation and traditional compulsory licenses. Their approach, described as a “voluntary collective licensing” system, is aimed at compensating artists while ensuring that new technology will flourish. I would welcome your thoughts on whether this is the kind of approach we in Congress should implement or whether there are other alternative means of moving beyond the unproductive debates of today to a new legal regime for music file sharing.