New group wants Congress to oppose Hollywood technology mandates

By Jon Newton 1/28/03

MPAA boss Honest Jack Valenti's feelings are deeply hurt.

Why's that?

Because nearly 30 ungrateful tech firms, consumer groups and trade organizations have banded together as the Alliance for Digital Progress (ADP) to fight attempts to, "force the government to design and mandate technology solutions to digital piracy".


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"I am shaking my head in wonderment at this million-dollar campaign to deride us," said Jack in a statement.

And why should that be?

Many of the proposals the ADP are against would allow US government minions to decide precisely what 'anti-piracy' technological measures would be used for consumer electronics systems, including computers.

Cynics believe 'anti-piracy' is actually a euphemism for packages such as Broadcast Flag largely dreamed up by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) - not to mention the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).

Rather than stopping piracy, they think, the techologies would in fact allow Hollywood to control what consumers see, here and do, make sure they can only do it on entertainment industry approved systems AND provide the industry with hitherto confidential data on what, where, how and when consumers are using their entertainment products.

But perish the thought. Hollywood only wants this technology so it can make users' experiences more enjoyable. And if you don't believe us, "Consumer satisfaction is our number one objective," said Jack in his statement.

In the meanwhile, the ADP’s broad membership of consumer groups, public-interest organizations, and businesses believe the best answers arise from private-sector collaboration on solutions that meet consumer expectations, says the organization on its web page.

And, "We urge consumers to join with us in calling on Congress and other policymakers to oppose technology mandates and support the protection of digital content," it says.

Nor is the ADP a group of steaming radicals from outer space. As of January 27, members included:

"Piracy of digital content is a serious, complex problem that concerns all of us," said ADP president Fred McClure. "But government-designed and mandated technology that swaps the diversity of marketplace solutions for a 'one size fits all' approach is not the answer.

"Mandates are a mistake. A mandate will raise the price of everything from CD players and DVD players to personal computers. It will make the devices consumers own today obsolete. And it will stifle the innovation at the heart of digital progress.

"ADP believes Hollywood should fight piracy by working with industry to come up with solutions that meet consumer expectations, and by providing attractive legal alternatives to piracy by putting content online in a wide variety of digital formats."

This kind of collaboration gave consumers products such as the DVD, a cooperative effort among the technology industry, the consumer electronics industry and Hollywood, McClure said, continuing that the DVD has become the most rapidly adopted entertainment technology in history.

"In fact, a study unveiled by the DVD Entertainment Group earlier this month showed that, for the first time ever, DVD sales and rental revenues in 2002 surpassed the box office’s record-breaking receipts for the same period," he said.

"According to projections from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Hollywood’s total DVD revenues, fueled by increasing mainstream adoption of DVDs, will exceed box office receipts again next year."

But Hollywood movie studios are nonetheless pushing for government to become a "technology designer," says the group. Rather, its the proper role is to, "help educate consumers about digital piracy while strongly enforcing existing copyright laws," states the ADP.

Hollywood studios are insisting on these stifling mandates despite the fact its 2002 revenues set a record for the third year running, emphasises the ADP. "Both box office sales and the sales and rentals of VHS and DVD videos are at all-time highs, according to the industry’s own figures," it says.

"We are greatly concerned that Hollywood is trying to pressure Congress into forcing technology mandates onto American consumers," McClure warned.

A nationwide poll conducted January 17-19 by The Mellman Group and Fabrizio McLaughlin Associates revealed:

And under Government Mandates Are A Costly Mistake, the ADP says it, "strongly opposes laws forcing the private sector to design, deploy, or use technology to protect entertainment content in digital form".

Before too much of rosy glow overwhelms you, however, at the bottom of the page is this rider: "Government can help by enforcing existing copyright laws, which prescribe serious penalties for people who make illegal copies of digital content like movies, music, and software. Tougher enforcement of these laws by the government will help to reduce dramatically the amount of illegal copying in the United States."

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Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

Other MP3 Stories:
The MP3 Losers of 2002
The MP3 Winners of 2002


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