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The Consumer Technology Bill of Rights
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Recent changes to copyright law have been used to deprive consumers of
their traditional, well-established "personal-use" rights with
regard to the digital media they legally acquire. As a result,
consumers are hurt, innovators and entrepreneurs are hurt and the
capital markets are hurt.
DigitalConsumer.orgís goal is simply to restore the balance of
copyright law so that artists and creators can prosper while citizens
have reasonable flexibility to use content in fair and legal ways. We
are a consumer-advocacy group working to preserve a consumerís
personal-use media rights. We are not asserting new rights, but only
working to retain those that consumers have had for two centuries.
We are pursuing and intend to have passed into law a "Consumer
Technology Bill of Rights" which positively asserts a citizenís
personal use media rights. Clarifying 'personal useí benefits the
citizen by preserving existing rights that are being threatened and it
helps to preserve the innovative technology environment that this
country thrives on.
Examples of the consumerís rights being taken away
- You buy a CD but can't take it to the gym. The Audio Home
Recording Act legalized our right to copy music for personal use --
for example, making a tape of a CD to use in a Walkman. But new
copyright legislation makes it a crime to extract music from
- You pay for cable but you aren't allowed to use your VCR. In the
Betamax case, the Supreme Court ruled that making a copy of a TV show
was a legal, non-infringing use of broadcast content. But new HDTV
standards will make it illegal to copy a digital broadcast without the
permission of the TV station.
- You buy a DVD but you can't watch it the way you want to. It
seems obvious that users should have the ability to fast-forward and
rewind movies as they see fit. But new copyright laws threaten that
right: it is a crime to sell a DVD player that would allow a consumer
to fast-forward through the ads at the beginning of a DVD!
- You own an electronic book, but you can't lend it to your son at
college. Your right to lend a physical book is protected by the "first
sale doctrine." This law doctrine states that purchasers of
copyrighted works such as music or books have the right to dispose of
the works in any way that they wish: they can sell them, loan them,
rent them, or give them away. But new copyright laws criminalize all
of those activities for digital content such as electronic
Examples of the threat to innovation
- Media companies have always fought innovation with litigation --
the VCR, the MP3 player, etc. The same new copyright laws that
threaten fair use rights also give media companies much more powerful
tools to threaten innovation.
- New copyright laws also threaten innovation beyond the realm of
consumer electronics. Onerous restrictions on a practice called
"reverse engineering" make it more difficult to build competitive
software products. Numerous industry leaders have already spoken out
about the threat to software engineering.
Consumer Technology Bill of Rights
The Consumer Technology Bill of Rights is a positive assertion of a
consumerís personal use rights. These rights arenít new; they are
historic rights granted in previous legislation and court rulings
which have been eroded over the last four years been whittled away.
We will WORK WITH Washington to have our proposed bill passed into law
in order to protect the consumer, to protect innovation, and to defend
- The right to "time-shift" media. For example, recording a
television show and watching it later.
- The right to "space shift" media. For example, copying a CD you
have legally acquired to an MP3 player for listening at the gym.
- The right to make backup copies of media. For example, backing up
your CD in the event the original is destroyed.
- The right to use legally acquired media on the platform of your
choice. For example, watch TV on your iMac or listening to music on
your RIO MP3 player.
- The right to translate legally acquired media into comparable
- The right to use technology in order to achieve the
Founding and Management
Digitalconsumer.org was founded started in 2001 by Joe Kraus and
Graham Spencer, two of the co-founders of the Internet portal, Excite,
Support and funding
Digitalconsumer.org is privately funded through donations. The
organization has gained the respect and financial support of consumers
and Silicon-valley based businesses.
Tel: (650) 322-7122
Fax: (650) 322-8318