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DigitalConsumer.org launches to assert consumers’ digital rights

Organization proposes Consumer Technology Bill of Rights be passed into legislation

Palo Alto, Calif. -- March 14, 2002 -- DigitalConsumer.org, a new organization at the forefront of consumer digital rights, today announced its Consumer Technology Bill of Rights as well as its overall mission. The consumer-advocacy group, which unites entrepreneurs, investors and consumers, is proposing a set of principles that it intends to have passed into law. These principles would preserve consumers’ historic fair-use rights that have been recently diminished by changes in copyright law made at the request of media companies. With existing digital rights being challenged by media interests, DigitalConsumer.org’s mission is 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. The group originated in 2001 by Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer, co-founders of the Internet portal, Excite, Inc. The launch coincides with testimony by Kraus at today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the role of Congress in digital copyright issues.

"We see a turning point that we are concerned about. We believe that recent changes to copyright law have gone too far by depriving citizens of rights that they have historically enjoyed," said Joe Kraus, co-founder of Digitalconsumer.org. "New copy-protection technologies are being introduced into the market, and consumers are buying these technologies without realizing that their rights are being stripped away. The national conversation needs to involve more than an examination of how to prevent illegal copying. We need to make sure that a consumer’s fair-use rights are preserved -- rights such as the ability to make a copy of a CD for a car stereo or the ability to record a TV show for later viewing."

PROTECTING THE CONSUMER IN A DIGITAL WORLD

The group has four distinct goals; all supporting a larger mission of getting legislation passed that protects the digital rights that consumers have today. Specifically, DigitalConsumer.org’s goals are:

  1. To pass into law a Consumer Technology Bill of Rights that positively asserts the rights a consumer has to the media they legally acquire.
  2. To provide a consumer voice in Washington DC that lets legislators know that individuals expect their personal use rights in a digital world.
  3. To raise public awareness that consumers are losing their personal use rights in digital media.
  4. To provide an organizing vehicle that allows consumers who are concerned about losing their personal use rights to take action.

"We organized digitalconsumer.org because protecting personal use rights is important for consumers, innovators and investors alike," continued Kraus. "We’re here to advocate, organize and ultimately legislate."

THE CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY BILL OF RIGHTS

DigitalConsumer.org’s mission is to pass a Consumer Technology Bill of Rights. The group has outlined a set of principles that it believes must be protected. These rights are not new; they are historic rights granted in previous legislation and court rulings, which have over the last four years been whittled away. The tenets of the bill proposed are:

  1. The right to "time-shift" media. For example, recording a television show and watching it later.
  2. The right to "space shift" media. For example, copying a CD you have legally acquired to an MP3 player for listening at the gym.
  3. The right to make backup copies of media. For example, backing up your CD in the event the original is destroyed.
  4. The right to use legally acquired media on the platform of your choice. For example, watching TV on your iMac or listening to music on your RIO MP3 player.
  5. The right to translate legally acquired media into comparable formats.
  6. The right to use technology in order to achieve the aforementioned rights.

HISTORY OF THE ISSUE

Historically, congress and the courts have crafted a balance between the rights of media companies and ordinary citizens. Generally, rights holders have the exclusive right to distribute and profit from artistic works, while consumers who have legally acquired these works can use them in certain non-commercial ways. For example, consumers can buy a CD and make a tape for listening in their car, or they can make mixed tapes of their favorite music. But, this careful balance has shifted dramatically in recent years to the detriment of citizens, innovators, entrepreneurs and capital markets. Consumers are losing their personal-use rights, entrepreneurs are being prevented from developing certain types of technology, and investors are being litigated against for putting capital into innovations that involve personal use.

INNOVATION AND THE CAPITAL MARKETS

Major media companies have used lawsuits in attempts to stops or delay consumer electronics device that deal with personal use; beginning with the introduction of the VCR, continued with the MP3 player and most recently occurring with the ReplayTV personal video recorder. These devices were all designed to make it easier for consumers to enjoy the media they paid for. However, when new consumer electronics devices yield a new lawsuit from the media companies, these lawsuits inhibit investment. Investors are less willing to invest in potential innovations in personal media use with the prospect of litigation and the lack of clarity around a consumer’s personal use rights.

ABOUT DIGITALCONSUMER.ORG

Digitalconsumer.org is a consumer-advocacy group started in 2001 with a mission is 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. The group is composed of entrepreneurs, investors and consumers, and it is proposing a set of principles -- a Consumer Technology Bill of Rights -- that it intends to have passed into law. These principles would preserve consumers’ historic fair-use rights that have been recently diminished by changes in copyright law made at the request of media companies. To learn more about the Consumer Technology Bill of Rights or to find out how to donate, please visit: www.digitalconsumer.org

Press contact:
Melissa Walia
press@digitalconsumer.org
Cell: (650) 208-4523

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