Reps. Lofgren and Boucher Step-up Efforts to Protect Consumers and Innovation in the Digital Age

June 18, 2003
Press Release

Calling on Congress to Amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Improve Trade with Chile, Singapore and Other Trading Partners

Media Contact: Christine Glunz, 202.225.3072

Washington, DC — Representatives Lofgren and Boucher call on Congress to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to protect a consumer’s fair use of digital media and technology in light of the recent signing of Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).   The FTAs contain provisions of the DMCA which have been used to endanger legitimate rights and expectations of consumers, contrary to the intentions of Congress.

“I call on my fellow Members of Congress to help Representative Boucher and I amend the DMCA to restore the correct balance between copyright holders and consumers, as intended by Congress, without offending our trading partners,” said Rep. Lofgren.    “Earlier this year, I was advised by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) that if we amend the DMCA, we would be in breach of our treaty obligations with Chile and Singapore.  I am pleased that the Secretary of Commerce has now confirmed that Congress may amend the DMCA even after the Chile and Singapore FTAs, containing DMCA provisions, are enacted.”  

Representatives Lofgren and Boucher sent a letter to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Zoellick asking him to clarify whether the United States would be in violation of the FTAs if Congress amended the DMCA to clarify the balance between copyright holders and the interests of society as intended by Congress when the DMCA was enacted in 1998.  Representatives Lofgren and Boucher also wrote Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, who responded in a recent letter and confirmed that Congress retains its inherent authority to amend the DMCA.

            “The response we received from the Secretary of Commerce is promising.  It alleviates our concern that the Administration had somehow sought to tie the hands of Congress by seeking to effectively prevent it from amending a law that has had many troublesome consequences for consumers and innovators of technology,” said Rep. Boucher.

“Although the DMCA was intended to protect the legitimate interests of copyright holders, it has also been endangering legitimate rights and expectations of consumers,” said Rep. Lofgren.  “When Congress enacted the DMCA in 1998, it never intended to prohibit all users — even lawful ones — from circumventing technical restrictions to make non-infringing uses of purchased content.  Yet some corporations continue to use the DMCA to prohibit legitimate uses.  We should show leadership to the rest of the world by amending the DMCA now to put the interests of consumers and technology innovators first.”

“The DMCA is having an adverse effect on technological innovation,” said Rep. Boucher.  “There are numerous cases in court or on appeal that would utilize this act to stifle competition and technological innovation.  This situation has stimulated vigorous debate about what changes should be wrought on the existing DMCA.  With the Administration now negotiating the more far-reaching Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement, we should amend the DMCA now so that the balance we strike can be incorporated into the agreement and preserve the fair use rights of consumers throughout the Western Hemisphere.”

The Singapore FTA was signed on May 6, 2003 and the Chile FTA was signed on June 6, 2003.  Both agreements will soon be sent to Congress for consideration.