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Consumer electronics companies and consumer advocates have formed a group to lobby against what they see as overly restrictive copyright protection sought by the movie and record industries.
The Digital Freedom campaign is a national effort against media companies that are seeking from Congress and government regulators restrictions that would stymie innovation in digital technologies. The lobbying effort, launched this week, includes the Consumer Electronics Association, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Be The Media, New America Foundation, National Video Resources, and FreeNetworks.org.
"New technologies are under fierce attack from the big recording labels and studios, and those attacks go right to the heart of our basic right to use digital technology without unreasonable government restrictions or the threat of costly lawsuits," Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association, said in a statement.
The group plans to fight against legislation and lawsuits designed to place "crippling restrictions" or impose excessive fees on digital technologies. Don Goldberg, spokesman for the group, said Friday that members of the campaign felt a need to organize to reverse expansions in copyright laws that movie and record companies have won over the years.
"Especially on the hill (Congress), they are so ingrained up there, that it's time to have a more vocal and physical response to the issues," he said.
Among the issues angering consumer electronic manufacturers is the entertainment industry's use of lawsuits against new recording devices, Goldberg said. For example, the Recording Industry Association of America sued XM Satellite Radio in May for giving subscribers the ability in new devices, such as the Pioneer Inno and Samsung Helix, to record music. The RIAA claimed XM was inducing subscribers to infringe on music copyrights.
The effectiveness of the new campaign, however, remains to be seen. So far, it has no offices, no dedicated staff and has not hired lobbyists. Nevertheless, Goldberg argues that the group will build clout over time by rallying consumers and gathering more members.
"What we're doing is positioning for the next Congress more than anything else," Goldberg said. "We're never going to outgun them with money. We just need to be better and smarter."
Ed Black, president and chief executive of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, argued that while the Digital Freedom campaign may not have the resources of the media companies, it has the better chance of winning over voters, who are more apt to side with companies and groups looking to give them more freedom in the use of music and movies they buy legally.
"The political tide is turning," Black said. "The number of people who care about our point of view is growing substantially, and that's a significant factor."