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Get ready for the "customary history use" battle

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has unearthed what seems to be one of the most controversial efforts by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to tackle piracy.

This effort is embodied in a proposed bill (opens in new tab) to, "authorize the Federal Communications Commission to limit the unauthorised copying and indiscriminate redistribution of digital audio and video broadcast content over digital networks."

Seemingly, the RIAA and MPAA are looking to freeze the march of progress, in a bid to reduce the gap between technological innovation and the means of copyright holders to protect their rights.

What this means for end users and consumers is that, had this law been passed in the 70's or in the 90's, there may have been no VCRs, TiVos, iPods or Walkmans.

As strange as it may seem, this law could be passed quite soon and would tip the balance in favour of the interests of RIAA/MPAA rather than those of the end user. In effect the RIAA or MPAA would be able to decide, via lobbying, whether a technology would be "safe enough for use" or not.

A new expression, "customary history use", has been introduced in the bill and replaces the previous "fair use" expression, which is used to legitimise current technologies like recordable DVDs or Bit Torrent, even though they have other illicit uses.

Unfortunately, there's no way of finding out what the the real impact of this proposed bill will be on the worldwide technology market, but it would be a real shame if innovation was controlled by a small number of media bureaucrats.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.