The consensus that no one agrees on

Amy Harmon in the New York Times: Hollywood Has a Setback in Controls for Digital TV.

“Frankly we’re surprised,” said Ken Johnson, a spokesman for Representative Billy Tauzin, the Louisiana Republican who leads the committee. “When we looked at the report we said, `Boy, we’ve got a lot of work to do.’ “

This is very good news. I’m a moderate when it comes to digital content protection — I think Hollywood studios and record labels have some legitimate concerns, and I see room for common ground between content owners, the tech industry and users. (See this month’s Release 1.0 for more.) But secretive, extreme efforts to impose absolute control by law will only retard innovation and harm the very industries proposing them.

The quote above suggests that key members of Congress were listening to Hollywood assurances that this was a simple case of responsible companies against lawless pirates. It’s not. There’s an important debate we need to have about what constitutes fair use in the digital age, where innovation comes from, whether some free copying actually stimulates purchases, and which historical models are most relevant to today. Anyone who tries to short-circuit that debate by claiming these are black-and-white issues is trying to subvert the political process and the technical standards process.

If you’re not familiar with the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group, and how it is secretly trying to create legal mandates restricting every digital media device, go read the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s excellent Consensus at Lawyerpoint Weblog. (And while you’re there, don’t miss this excellent animated parody.)