Oversight Hearing on “DRM: The Consumer Benefits of Today’s
Statement Of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren
“Despite some perceptions, digital piracy is not a threat limited to the movie and music industries. Software developers lose money from theft rates exceeding eighty percent in some countries. Local and national economies lose jobs and tax revenues and lawful consumers confront higher prices. Faced with these realities, preventing digital piracy is a righteous goal.
“But our national discussion must involve more than an examination of how to prevent illegal copying. As the title of this hearing indicates, consumers benefit from Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions that secure content and encourage artists, publishers, record labels, studios and software developers to release their works in digital formats. But that is only part of the equation. Whether you call them rights or expectations, consumers have grown accustomed to certain uses. For example, since the advent of the VCR, consumers have been able to lawfully record their favorite television show. DRM technology will ultimately fail if it prevents this and other consumer expectations in the name of outdated business models.
“Put simply, the rights of the copyright owner to control their work must be balanced with the rights of the consumer. Traditionally, copyright law has aspired to do just that. The great challenge today is to maintain that balance in the digital world by finding ways to prevent and punish digital pirates without treating every consumer as one.
“Ultimately, it is the marketplace, not government, who will judge the best solution. Calls for government mandates are unrealistic amid the rapid pace of technological innovation. Nor is it realistic to expect one DRM solution to fit the multiple platforms and devices that exist. Instead of mandating regulations that will be outdated when published, government should encourage the marketplace to seek out DRM technologies that are strong enough to protect content and flexible enough to preserve the performance and functionality of underlying hardware and software.
“I look forward to hearing today about some of the DRM solutions that currently exist. I am especially interested in hearing how content providers have been utilizing existing DRM technologies. I am concerned that some in the content industry expect the weight of preventing digital piracy to be shouldered disproportionately by hardware and software manufacturers. While technological protections have a role to play, content providers must also lead by preventing piracy at its source. Indeed, pirates somehow obtained an illegal copy of Spiderman before selling it prior to its theatrical release. Finally, I am most interested in hearing how DRM solutions will respect the rights and expectations of consumers, who are the ultimate arbiters of DRM technology.”
Congresswoman Lofgren is a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, and a member of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims. Rep. Lofgren is a member of the Internet Caucus, the High-Tech Coalition, and the Women’s High-Tech Coalition in the House of Representatives. Congresswoman Lofgren’s district includes Silicon Valley and San Jose, CA.