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Brownback to the Rescue

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Our bud Farhad Manjoo at Salon, cyber-sleuth, got hold of a draft of Sen. Sam Brownback’s consumer digital rights bill, discussed in Blogcritics here.

Salon:

    Verizon has thrown in its support for an eight-page document that, in civil liberties circles, is referred to simply as the “Brownback bill.” That phrase is, technically, incorrect. The Brownback bill is not yet an actual bill in Congress; instead, it’s an idea devised by Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican, to explicitly prohibit some of the entertainment industry’s worst actions — such as its effort, in the Verizon case, to get at private information of Internet users, or its attempt last year to mandate that all digital equipment come equipped with copy-protection technology.

    Drafts of the legislation have been circulating among consumer groups and other members of the Senate for a few months, but — apparently for lack of a Democratic co-sponsor — the bill has not yet been formally put forward. It’s not clear when that will occur. Salon’s calls to Sen. Brownback were not returned.

    One draft obtained by Salon — titled “Brownback Version 2.0″ — appears to focus mainly on digital rights management systems, the technology that entertainment firms are increasingly relying on to protect their digital media products. The draft prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from requiring tech companies to include DRM technology in their devices; for example, if the bill becomes law the FCC would not be able to force electronics manufacturers to make CD players that play only copy-protected CDs.

    ….The Brownback proposal also requires all copy-protected products — for instance, CDs, DVDs, e-books or digital songs bought from the Apple Music Store — to be clearly labeled with their restrictions. Finally, the proposal would prohibit copyright holders from easily getting the names and addresses of people they suspect of copyright infringement on the Internet — this is the section of the bill that Verizon is most interested in. If the bill becomes law, content owners would be required to first file a civil lawsuit against an anonymous alleged digital thief; only if a judge decides the case has merit will the Internet user be identified.

    Critics of copyright powers thoroughly like the Brownback idea. “We like what we’ve seen so far,” says Fred von Lohmann, a senior intellectual property attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The developments in the Verizon lawsuit have made the bill that much more timely, and as more DRM products hit the market it’s going to make the bill more and more relevant.”

Go, Senator Sam.

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