BREAKING: ECA Takes a Stand on Fair Use, Disses DMCA

Gamers, the Entertainment Consumers Association officially has your back.

Later today the ECA will announce its support for HR1201, known as the Fair Use Act of 2007. The move represents the ECA’s first foray into the legislative arena.

HR1201 was originally introduced in Congress by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Charlie Wyatt (R-CA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). The proposed legislation seeks to restore the historical balance in copyright law and return to consumers many of the fair use rights lost with the 1998 passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

As a practical matter, the DMCA has been wielded like a club against consumers by corporate interests such as the RIAA, MPAA and Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents U.S. video game publishers. (see: Fear & Loathing Over Feds’ Mod Chip Sting)

Of his proposal to modify the consumer-unfriendly DMCA, Rep. Boucher writes:
 

For example, under [the consumer-oriented] bill a user may circumvent an access control on an electronic book he purchased for the purpose of reading it on a different electronic reader.

Circumventing access control? Why, that could mean bypassing the region code lockout to play a Japanese game release on your modded console, and what’s so bad about that? Nothing, except that under the DMCA, you’re a criminal. Say hello to the friendly federal agent knocking at your door.

Of the move, ECA president Hal Halpin (top left) said:
 

We understand and respect the careful balance that must exist between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of consumers of copyrighted material. We believe in the protection of intellectual property while maintaining consumers’ rights, and ability to lawfully use acquired media for non-commercial purposes. Additionally, digital rights issues should be subject to private sector inter-industry resolution rather than government imposed intervention.

Rep. Boucher (left), sponsor of the Fair Use Act, added:
 

The fair use doctrine is threatened today as never before.  Historically, the nation’s copyright laws have reflected a carefully calibrated balance between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of the users of copyrighted material. 

We have introduced the Fair Use Act to restore this balance, and correct the Fair Use disparities created by the DMCA.  I am thrilled to enlist the support of the ECA in this effort to ensure that consumers who purchase digital media can enjoy a broad range of uses of the media for their own convenience in a way which does not infringe the copyright in the work.

GP: For those gamers who have been waiting to see what the ECA is all about, here’s the answer – or at least the beginning of the answer. I’m really proud to see the organization take a stand like this on behalf of game consumers, a stand that is 180 degrees from the position of the video game industry.

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.  

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