The Senator From Disney

The senator from Disney wants the SSSCA to put copy protection systems in every digital device and operating system. He wants it because he’s been paid to want it, but it’s a horrible idea with terrible consequences to consumers.

Senator Fritz Hollings from South Carolina is frequently referred to as the senator from Disney. The reason is he takes a lot of money from Big Entertainment (nearly $300K in the last election cycle) and in return he favors laws that Big Entertainment wants passed. Here’s the latest one.

The Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA) is another example of laws that don’t get people upset at first, but are another step on the road to ruin. The SSSCA mandates that copy protection be built into every digital device and operating system.

At first you think, no big deal, it’ll only affect those music pirates. But if you investigate further, you find it’ll prevent you from making those music compilation tapes or CDs — of music you paid for. It’ll prevent you from making backups of your software on your PC — software you paid for. It’ll prevent you from recording TV shows onto a digital device, even if you’re just using it like a VCR.

It’ll make your children felons if they use a 10 second clip of a movie in a homework project. That is, except they won’t be able to use a 10 second movie clip in anything — unless you pay for the privilege. The SSSCA’s mandated systems will see to that.

The SSSCA is yet another tactic of Big Entertainment “to use their copyright not just to obtain fair compensation but in effect to exercise complete dominance and total control of the copyrighted work…”, according to Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia.

Just like Microsoft wants a piece of every transaction anywhere on the Internet, Big Entertainment wants a piece of any use anywhere of any piece of material on which they assert they hold the copyright. This includes eliminating the concept of “fair use,” which is today what lets you do all of the things I listed above.

An article with more details, especially some details of the slimy practices of the Recording Industry, is at Fox News. Republicans Should Back Recording Artists, Consumers is definitely worth the read.

Hollings was hoping to rush discussion of the SSSCA through the Senate and get it passed into law quickly and quietly. The technology industry is not so excited about this legislation, and in congressional testimony on the Act Intel executive VP Leslie Vadasz warned that such legislation would be catastrophic for the high-technology industry.

Hollings blasted him for having the spine to stick up to him, and in general the hearings were the usual Congressional posturing and ego-stroking for their largest campaign donors.

There are not a lot of representatives on the side of the consumer in this debate. Even Intel is mostly interested in keeping Congress out of their business, not in ensuring consumer-friendly digital rights management.

If we don’t act now, we don’t get to complain later.