In discussing the anti-circumvention portion of the legislation, I think it is worth emphasizing that I could agree to support the bill’s approach of outlawing certain devices because I was repeatedly assured that the device prohibitions in 1201(a)(2) and 1201(b) are aimed at so-called "black boxes" and not at legitimate consumer electronics and computer products that have substantial non-infringing uses. I specifically worked for and achieved changes to the bill to make sure that no court would misinterpret this bill as outlawing legitimate consumer electronics devices or computer hardware. As a result, neither section 1201(a)(2) nor section 1201(b) should be read as outlawing any device with substantial non-infringing uses, as per the tests provided in those sections.
If history is a guide, however, someone may yet try to use this bill as a basis for initiating litigation to stop legitimate new products from coming to market. By proposing the addition of section 1201(d)(2) and (3), I have sought to make clear that any such effort to use the courts to block the introduction of new technology should be bound to fail.
As my colleagues may recall, this wouldn’t be the first time someone has tried to stop the advance of new technology. In the mid 1970s, for example, a lawsuit was filed in an effort to block the introduction of the Betamax video recorder. I think it useful to recall what the Supreme Court had to say in ruling for consumers and against two movie studies in that case:
One may search the Copyright Act in vain for any sign that the elected representatives of the millions of people who watchtelevision every day have made it unlawful to copy a program for later viewing at home, or have enacted a flat prohibition against the sale of machines that make such copying possible.
As Missouri’s Attorney General, I had the privilege to file a brief in the Supreme Court in support of the right of consumers to buy that first generation of VCRs. I want to make it clear that I did not come to Washington to vote for a bill that could be used to ban the next generation of recording equipment. I want to reassure consumers that nothing in the bill should be read to make it unlawful to produce and use the next generation of computers or VCRs or whatever future device will render one or the other of these familiar devices obsolete.
Another important amendment was added that makes clear that this law does not mandate any particular selection of components for the design of any technology. I was concerned that this legislation could be interpreted as a mandate on product manufacturers to design products so as to respond affirmatively to effective technical protection measures available in the marketplace. In response to this concern I was pleased to offer an amendment, with the support of both the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the Committee, to avoid the unintended effect of having design requirements imposed on product and component manufacturers, which would have a dampening effect on innovation, and on the research and development of new products. Accordingly, my amendment clarified that product designers need not design consumer electronics, telecommunications, or computing products, nor design and select parts or components for such products, in order to respond to particular technological protection measures.
This amendment reflects my belief that product manufacturers should remain free to design and produce consumer electronics, telecommunications and computing products without the threat of incurring liability for their design decisions under this legislation. Nothing could cause greater disaster and a swifter downfall of our vibrant technology sector than to have the federal government dictating the design of computer chips or mother boards. By way of example, during the course of our deliberations, we were made aware of certain video boards used in personal computers in order to allow consumers to receive television signals on their computer monitors which, in order to transform the television signal from a TV signal to one capable of display on a computer monitor, remove attributes of the original signal that may be associated with certain copy control technologies. I am acutely aware of this particular example because I have one of these video boards on my own computer back in my office. It is quite useful as it allows me to monitor the Senate floor, and occasionally ESPN on those rare occasions when the Senate is not in session. My amendment makes it clear that this legislation does not require that such transformations, which are part of the normal conversion process rather than affirmative attempts to remove or circumvent copy control technologies, fall within the proscriptions of chapter 12 of the copyright law as added by this bill.
Further, concerns were voiced during the Committee’s deliberations that because 1201 applies not only to devices but to parts and components of devices, it could be interpreted broadly to sweep in legitimate products such as personal computers and accessories and video and audio recording devices. While the manufacturers of these products were understandably concerned, it was quite apparent to me that it was not the Committee’s intention that such useful multipurpose articles of commerce be prohibited by 1201 on the basis that they may have particular parts or components that might, if evaluated separately from such products, fall within the proscriptions of 1201(a)(2) or (b). My amendment adding sections 1201(d)(2) and (3) was intended to address these concerns.