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Effort To Revise U.S. Copyright For Digital Age Causes Alarm

Another U.S. House bill that passed out of committee Thursday is causing some consternation … the EFF is among those warning that a proposed change to part of the current copyright law could result in additional licensing requirements for home digital media storage and use. The Section 115 Reform Act (SIRA) was proposed by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., to make what most involved say is a much-needed fix that will smooth the way for music services, updating policy that dates back to ragtime and bringing it into the digital age. SIRA, passed Thursday by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property with bi-partisan support, would replace the current two-license for each recording to a blanket system operated by the Copyright Office.
But a number of organizations and companies argue that the bill’s language treats every digital performance or display as distribution requiring seperate licenses. That would seem to open the door to duplicate fees; licensing of material currently consider fair use — timeshifting like TiVo, for instance; and licensing for incidental audio or video. (The incidental licenses would be “royalty free” but it coukd set a precedent.) Their concerns are detailed here.
In a cryptic joint statement, the Digital Media Association, the RIAA and the National Music Publishers Association expressed “optimism” about the intent of the bill but said “we have not reached complete agreement on all aspects of this legislation.”
The vote doesn’t mean the bill will reach the House floor as is and changes are expected. Whether these concerns will be addressed in the end remains to be seen but, reports CNET, Smith is open to discussing changes that could exempt incidental use completely.