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Consumer groups urge Congress to support H.R. 1201

April 27, 2005
Dear Representative:
We write to urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 1201, the “Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act of 2005” or DMCRA, recently introduced by Congressmen Rick Boucher, John Doolittle, and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton.
The DMCRA is a bipartisan measure that will help restore the historic balance of copyright law – providing incentives to creators and broad public access to creative works. The bill will also ensure that the public is not the unintended victim of digital copyright laws and new copy protection technologies. We ask you to co-sponsor this important measure.
H.R. 1201 will accomplish two goals:
Inform Consumers: The DMCRA will benefit consumers by ensuring that “copy protected” compact discs are adequately and clearly labeled. Proper labeling will enable consumers to make fully informed decisions before purchasing a CD that may not play on their CD player, personal computer, or iPod.
Help Restore Balance to Copyright: The DMCRA will also benefit the public by limiting the unintended effects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). First, provisions of the DMCA that were intended to protect copyrights are increasingly being used to protect business models, to the detriment of the public’s ability to enjoy digital music, movies and educational materials. For instance, when a user legally downloads a song, digitally protected with Windows Media, the DMCA may legally prohibit the user from conveniently converting his or her song to play on his or her iPod.
Second, H.R. 1201 will protect lawful uses of copyrighted works where the Copyright Office’s rulemaking on DMCA exemptions has failed to do so. Although Congress intended the rulemaking to be a “fail-safe” mechanism to protect against the unintended consequences of the DMCA, the Copyright Office has set the standard for obtaining an exemption so high that only four narrow exemptions have been approved since 2000. Indeed, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in its advisory capacity in the DMCA review process, has repeatedly said that the standards that the Office has been using to determine adverse affects “are contrary to the language of the [DMCA’s] statutory provision.”
H.R. 1201 is narrowly Medicare Modernization Act ed to ensure that artists, educators, scientists, librarians, innovators and computer users are free from liability when they lawfully access and use digital works, while also ensuring that copyright owners are protected from unlawful uses.
We hope we can count on your co-sponsorship, and look forward to working with you in promoting this legislation and the important values it intends to protect.
Gene Kimmelman
Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy
Consumers Union
Mark Cooper
Director of Research
Consumer Federation of America
Gigi Sohn
Public Knowledge