Congress vs amateur content, round XVLVI
January 14th, 2006

(Via Techdirt):

Last month some of our elected officials put forth a bill trying to “plug the analog hole” — a phrase that originally came up as a joke to show how silly it was to try to stop the copying of content. However, we missed Tim Lee’s response soon after it came out, highlighting a particularly troublesome exception to the bill for professional devices. Since, of course, plugging the analog hole completely basically means you can’t create any new content at all, the bill calls for an exception for “professional” equipment. That’s obviously problematic — because how do you decide what professional equipment is? As Tim asks, does this make the maker of any new technology liable if too many amateurs happen to buy its product? That would have a pretty major impact on product development and pricing. Today, Ed Felten takes this story and points out the next obvious conclusion. It also would make it much harder for amateurs to create content, because they couldn’t buy equipment that would let them do so. In other words, perhaps the point of this bill isn’t so much to “plug the analog hole” when it comes to copying unauthorized content (not that it would work anyway), but to try to slow down the somewhat rapid growth of amateur content successfully competing with professional broadcast content. We’ve talked, repeatedly, about how the power of internet has often been in how it has enabled anyone to become a content creator. It’s no longer about “professionals” or “amateurs” because that distinction no longer matters. Unfortunately, this bill tries to bring back that distinction in a major way — and then put up huge barriers for the amateurs.

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