image Even now, it’s illegal in the U.S. to bypass DRM to convert e-books to another format, thanks to the current DMCA. Hollywood owned the Clinton administration, lock, stock and barrel, along with many in Congress, of both parties; and, yes, employees of certain publishing-related companies also have donated to politicians. What’s more, Reed Elsevier, Inc., current owner of Publishers Weekly, appears to have spent at least several million on lobbying fees in the States in the 2007 election cycle. Shown here is Hilary Rosen, ex-RIAA CEO, who, in her heyday, fought for the DMCA and other gems with the recording industry in mind.

imageCould things get still worse in e-bookdom, music and other areas? Techdirt and Google lawyer William Patry have the details on the copyright lobby’s use of treaties as a way to make U.S. laws even more anti-consumerish than they already are. Furthermore, remember—the issue with fair use isn’t just the ability to copy material, per se. It’s also free expression. Simply put, fair use is part of what makes America America. While it’s important for writers and others to be paid, the copyright interests are eager to go overboard, often with corporate earnings in mind rather than the welfare of individual creators.

Related: Sometimes you should just assume that fair use doesn’t exist, from a young law school grad named Mona Ibrahim. Agree with her conclusions? Some might say that the “just assume” approach weakens fair use. On the other hand, what to do when you lack resources for extensive help?

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  1. The problem with US copyright law in this respect that is that although you have great things like fair use, you also have things like statutory damages that could bankrupt a person in a single blow. Using fairly should not be a risk.

    But IANAL. Has anybody ever been convicted to pay high damages after they tried to use a fair use defense?

  2. It’s also an issue in this internet age. If I, in Canada, download a book from the internet, whose laws apply and how would they enforce it if they thought I wasn’t following the rules?

  3. Branko
    Actually the high damages aren’t as much of a problem as the cost to litigate. If your lawyer sees an inside of the courtroom, you are talking about at least 30-40 billable hours, which with good civil lawyers (at least in the SF bay area) charging ~$300 an hour will be an out of pocket expense of $6K to $12k (plus a retainer), and the costs can climb quickly upwards from there (unless your lawyer is cutting you a sweetheart deal). If you win, as a prevailing party you might be entitled to recoup your legal expenses but that’s a bit of an arduous process in and of itself.

    An interesting parallel in the Music business was/is which is a Russian online store which offered low priced music (through compulsory licensing). There have been several opinions about if importation (say a US or Canadian purchasing music from their site) is legal, but every one seemed to agree the it depended upon the laws of the country purchasing the product.
    Here’s a link to AllOfMp3 FAQ on the subject:

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