Commentary

Lawmakers Gripe About Broadband Plan's Copyright Suggestions

Education expert Ryan Goble, who creates English language study guides, wanted to use Beatles lyrics but found the $3,000-plus licensing fee prohibitive. "Some rich and exciting songs will be out of our price and never written up as curriculum for a mass teacher audience," he complained.

His remarks were included in an article, "The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy," by American University's Center for Social Media, which found its way into the Federal Communication Commission's new broadband plan. That plan recommends that Congress consider legislation that would "encourage copyright holders to grant educational digital rights of use."

The FCC stated: "Teachers seeking to use Beatles lyrics to promote literacy, employing music as a cultural bridge, could not afford the $3,000 licensing fee charged by the rights holders. Text-to-speech features for the Amazon Kindle e-book reader were shut off because of a copyright dispute."

The commission went on to propose specific steps Congress could take to liberalize copyright laws, including amending the TEACH Act "to better allow educators and students to use content for educational purposes in distance and online learning environments." The TEACH Act allows educators to show or perform copyrighted works in the classroom.

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Turns out that those suggestions didn't go over well with all lawmakers. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), a longtime proponent of content owners' rights, questioned FCC chair Julius Genachowski today about the suggestion that Beatles lyrics should be used for educational purposes.

She also complained that the plan contained little discussion of property protection. Genachowski acknowledged that intellectual property wasn't a central focus of the broadband plan and offered to follow up with Bono Mack later.

That response seemed to annoy Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who criticized Genachowski and other commissioners for "punting."

"The expansion of fair use is of concern to me," Blackburn said, adding that one of the songwriters in her district calls fair use "a fairly useful way to steal my money." She asked the FCC to re-examine the issue.

But with the broadband plan already signed, sealed and delivered, it doesn't seem likely that the FCC now is going to reopen it to address copyright in more detail. Even more fundamentally, the FCC has no power to either expand or curb fair use -- a concept rooted in First Amendment law and largely defined by the judicial system.

1 comment about "Lawmakers Gripe About Broadband Plan's Copyright Suggestions".
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  1. Dave Woodall from fiorano associates, March 29, 2010 at 1:42 p.m.

    So let me guess where Mary Bono's money comes from: Sonny Bono's royalties...of which she is responsible for what percentage? Oh, that's right; Sonny wrote all those songs with his other wife, BEFORE he met Mary.

    The psychology behind this level of selfishness and greed fascinates me. God forbid Mary Bono (or any songwriter) miss out on one penny of revenue because someday a teacher might think a song would help them connect with their students. You'd like to think Mary Bono would be grateful for winning the Gold Digger Sweepstakes and happy to give a little back.

    I guess that's the definition of Compassionate Conservatism: "I'm compassionate until doing so actually requires to me to give of myself".

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