Imagine a world without iPods, TiVos, CD burners or VCRs. This harsh Luddite world – where technological innovation is stifled – could easily become reality if Utah’s Senator Orrin Hatch has his way. Senator Hatch has proposed a bill which will allow copyright owners such as the RIAA to sue manufacturers for any infringement, or “theft,” their products allowed. Why would Apple make iPods if they could be sued anytime someone loaded a copyrighted song onto it? How long would Sony continue to produce Walkmans if every mix tape would lead to a date in court? I was incensed – doesn’t the entertainment industry exploit us enough with $16 CDs and $10 movie tickets? Do they really need to threaten our portable music players? Contrary to UR students’ stereotypical apathy, I decided to take action. I sent some form faxes to my senators, and talked to friends encouraging them to do the same. I read as much as I could stand of the long, dry copyright law, attempting to figure out how this would affect me. Suddenly, on Sept. 6, I found that a new site, http://www.savebetamax.org, was planning a “call-in” to contact Congresscritters involved in the bill. I immediately signed up, and was assigned Congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. At the appointed time, I apprehensively dialed his office. After a few rings, a young lady answered the phone with a cheery greeting, and I felt calmed. I said that I was concerned with some legislation and would like to talk to someone in the Intellectual Property department. After multiple transfers I somehow ended up on the phone with someone from the immigration subcommittee, and after only about two minutes, discovered I was in the wrong place and had to be transferred yet again. Finally, a voice rang out “Hello, IP subcommittee.” I was enthralled. I told them how this bill would stop innovation, how it would destroy the remaining shreds of fair use, and how it would overturn the Sony Betamax decision, which allowed home recording of shows. After I finished my tirade, I inquired about his opinion, but was told that since the bill hadn’t made it to the house yet, he had none. I was a little dismayed at the response, but nonetheless happy that I did my part. I was euphoric. I had actually done something tangible to protect my rights. More than writing letters and e-mails, I had talked to a real person and participated in a larger effort, with over 5,000 other concerned citizens, that could stop this legislation.Freidman can be reached at jfreidman@campustimes.org.



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