A Thankless Job

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Leading members of Congress have requested that the Register of Copyright, Mary Beth Peters, to get the content providers, technology providers, and P2P software providers together to bang out a version of the INDUCE bill that is better than the current one.

Boy, do I feel sorry for her.

Politically, the senators are handing her their hot potato and hoping she can handle it, eventually.

If Internet radio is any example of what is likely to happen, those Senators aren’t going to hear from Ms. Peters for a long time.

The content providers want control of their content. The P2Pers don’t want them to have it. The technology people want nothing that might hurt sales or crimp their style.

You can’t square this circle. There is no way you can make all parties even semi-happy with the results.

I don’t know what kind of person Ms. Peters is, but this situation is not going to improve with age. She’s just not going to get consensus from the interested parties.

So if she wants to get anywhere, she’s going to have to dictate a solution.

If this problem is even going to have a chance of being solved, any solution will have to contain the two following two elements:

  • Industrial-strength DRM will have to be legislatively mandated into hardware and software by X date. No DRM, no U.S. sales. Sorry, but that’s the only way you’re going to stop 90% of P2Ping without busting millions and storing them inside a Geek Gulag.
  • People who break DRM coding/distribute the contents will have to go to jail.

    There will also need to be a third element which will make the content providers scream in pain, too. There’s a number of possible candidates for what that might be, but there will need to be something like that.

    To paraphrase some things Lawrence Lessig has said, no control is no option. If Congress has to choose between perfect control and no control, they will choose perfect control.

    And will ram it down any and all geek throats.

    In the long run, psychologically, this will be a good thing for many of those throats. Too many of those throats have forgotten or have never learned that they live in a real world and realize that other people have rights that can’t be trampled upon just because they want to.

    It’s time for a civics lesson, a long overdue needed one for many.

    Unfortunately, more likely than not, these hearings will turn into a long-running tempest of temper tantrums which will yield nothing. My sense is that Congress doesn’t really understand this problem and thinks lesser measures will do. It may be a few years until they realize it won’t.

    Let’s see whether or not Ms. Peters will grab the bull by the horns.

    I wouldn’t bet on it.


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