Publication Date

March 1, 1998

The Digital Future Coalition (DFC), a collaboration between many of the nation's leading nonprofit educational, scholarly, library, and consumer groups and major commercial trade associations, has called upon its members to support new legislation to preserve and protect intellectual property.

The coalition has thrown its support behind H.R. 3048, sponsored by Representatives Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) and S.R. 1146 by Senator John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), which the coalition describes as the only comprehensive bills "that will maintain balance in the Copyright Act by preserving for consumers, educators, librarians, researchers, and other Netizens fundamental rights in the digital era."

The new legislation is a response to recent international agreements, most notably the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that offered revisions to the primary international copyright treaty-the Berne Convention-to better reflect the needs of the digital age. While the DFC has praised the results of the WIPO agreements, it has sharply criticized the Clinton administration's proposals (H.R. 2281 and S.R. 1121) for implementing the agreement here in the United States. According to Page Putnam Miller of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, the administration's bills have been criticized for not being comprehensive and for introducing restrictive measures that overly protect the creators of copyrighted material." Speaking on behalf of the DFC before the House Judiciary Committee last September, Douglas Bennett, the president of Earlham College, stated that "What the bill contains is gravely flawed and what it omits is critical to industry and society as a whole."

By contrast, the DFC has come out strongly on behalf of the bills by Senator Ashcroft and Representatives Campbell and Boucher, which they praise as maintaining a proper balance between the creators and users of copyrighted material According to Peter Jaszi, law professor at American University and principal spokesperson for the coalition, "both bills clarify the continued relevance of: 'fair use' in the digital environment and both also update current exemptions in the Copyright Act to allow for digital preservation and for distance education by means of digital networks." According to Miller, these bills "would enable educators to use computers in the classroom the same way that they currently use television to foster distance learning.”

For detailed comparisons of the bills, their merits, and flaws, you can visit the DFC web site at Members need to bring their concerns to their representatives and senators as soon as possible, to ensure they are enacted in this session. According to Jaszi, it is vitally important that new cosponsors be added to the bills within the next months, if the bills are to build sufficient momentum for passage.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.