Fixing Copyright’s Corporate Death Penalty

I wrote an editorial for TomPaine.com about the FAIR USE Act:

“The punishment should fit the crime,” but copyright law’s harsh penalties don’t match up with this maxim, and the entertainment industry has taken full advantage of that in its misguided war on new technologies. A bill recently introduced in Congress would help address this imbalance and add crucial protections for the rights of innovators and fans.

Just last week, Viacom sued YouTube and Google for hosting allegedly infringing videos uploaded by users, and nearly every news headline highlighted the one billion dollars in damages that the entertainment company is seeking. In fact, the suit declares that figure as a floor, not a ceiling—the penalty could be billions higher if the suit is successful, even without Viacom proving that much actual harm.

The threat of so-called “statutory” damages hangs over the heads of technology creators of all stripes, not just YouTube. Reps. Rick Boucher and John Doolittle have introduced the FAIR USE Act of 2007 to limit this draconian penalty and provide innovators with some much-needed breathing room.

Read the whole thing here.

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