- Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., joined others in criticizing the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for suing alleged music swappers, calling the RIAA’s legal tactics heavy-handed and against the intent of U.S. copyright laws, including the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
“The fundamental problem with the approach of the RIAA took is that it was based on legislation that created special property rights,” Sununu said. “Suddenly, you had a private entity that’s able to issue subpoenas, which is unprecedented.”
“That’s not what the DMCA was intended to do,” he said. “We can’t be writing legislation that gives holders of certain types of intellectual property special rights…We can’t carve out special legislation to give special powers to certain types of content.”
I have not heard this put more rationally or explicitly by a politician yet: why should the recording industry be able to wield a special tool that has the net result of intimidating and coercing citizens into behavior (settling RIAA claims against them for thousands of dollars) in which they wouldn’t otherwise engage? When the cost of wielding such a coercive tool (issuing subpoenas by private decree and forcing other private entities – ISPs – to reveal personal customer information that would otherwise require a court order) is virtually zero, that exactly countermands the very foundation of our legal systems – innocent until proven guilty – by removing virtually all costs associated with claims of guilt. It is the legal equivalent of “kill them all and let God sort them out.”
Sununu is equally sensible regarding the next major leap in personal communication: voice over IP.
- Lawmakers also spoke in support of moratoriums on taxing the Internet, with Sen. George Allen, R-Va., saying lawmakers need to be vigilant against efforts by state and local authorities to grab a chunk of broadband service fees.
Sununu said those same force are hungry to take a bite out of the emerging market for Internet-based telephone service. “I think the most important policy issue we’ll be dealing with over the next few months is voice over IP,” he said. Sununu said Congress’ job is “to try to protect it from taxation, to define it as an information service, so the technology can grow.” [CNET]