Sunday, May 18, 2008

The '08 Candidates and IP

It looks like the the Patent Reform Act (House version and Senate version) is stalled in the Senate, so we may not get to see how the 2008 Presidential Candidates will vote on it. Still, all of us IP loving folks may wonder if the candidates have publicly taken any positions on intellectual property.

Of the remaining major candidates, (Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama by my estimation) Obama seems to me to be the only one to have a neat, focus set of intellectual property positions posted on his website. Fortunately for us, CNET sent a questionnaire to all of the candidates in order to create their Technology Voter's Guide, and included in that questionnaire is a question about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. None of the candidates really provided a stellar answer, but I think their attitudes towards this hot-button issue may provide a little insight.

Here's the DMCA question:

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act's section restricting the "circumvention" of copy protection measures is supported by many copyright holders but has been criticized by some technologists as hindering innovation. Would you support changing the DMCA to permit Americans to make a single backup copy of a DVD, Blu-ray Disc DVD, HD DVD, or video game disc they have legally purchased?
And here are the responses, alphabetically by candidate's last name:

Hillary Clinton's response:
Strong copyright protections and efforts to stem piracy are critical to ensuring that our technology industries remain competitive in the global market. As we go forward, I would support a review of a range of issues related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act insofar as it did not concern degrading copyright protections or encourage copyright infringement.
John McCain's response:
The Internet and digital technology have provided widespread access to enormous quantities of information. This, in turn, made it necessary to update our copyright laws in 1998 to protect the rights of copyright holders to keep pace with the technological advances that characterize the Information Age.

As digitization of commerce, education, entertainment, and a host of other online applications proceeds, international copyright agreements have to be maintained and updated while protecting the rights of copyright owners.

I believe now, as I did then, that knowledge and ideas are central parts of what make the U.S. economy productive and competitive. It is vital that this intellectual property be protected and defended. However, we must ensure that such protections are never so onerous as to stifle the very innovation they strive to safeguard.
Barack Obama's response:
I would support, in concept, allowing Americans to make a single backup copy of a digital product they have purchased. And I think the market is moving in the direction of greater consumer freedom.

As policymakers, we are in a constant process of examining our laws to ensure that the protections we place on intellectual property are sufficient to encourage invention without hindering innovation that builds on previous work or unfairly limiting consumers from using the goods they purchase in a way that is fair to creators.

I would guess that the next administration will be dealing a lot with intellectual property, so here's hoping that the nominees will be asked some more tough questions about it during the debates leading up to the election.

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