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Consumer Alert tells Congress to back off digital mandates.

Consumer Alert in January joined with a number of other groups in the Alliance for Digital Progress in calling on Congress to back off from mandating "solutions" to the new choices and problems posed by digital entertainment technologies. Past breakthroughs in entertainment technology, from films with sound to the television to the VCR have always yielded greater consumer choice without industrial planning directives issued from self-styled experts in Washington. There's no reason to think that current revolutions in broadband networks and digital disc burners should be any different.

Fifty years ago, sales of television sets exploded, and the film industry responded by differentiating their content from that offered by television--wider screens, color, expensive spectacles, and so on. Twenty years ago, Motion Picture Association Chairman Jack Valenti ranted before Congress that the VCR would "slit the throat" of the film industry. Yet Hollywood adapted to the new format, and later on introduced another--the DVD--adding value such as director's cuts and director's commentaries to the package.

Content providers, anticipating gains in consumer Internet technology, have regularly been able to adapt their intellectual properties so that what is offered has more value than what can be created or duplicated by the consumer. This will continue of hardware and content industries are left free by the government to develop their own standards and content delivery structures. A mandated digital regime will only calcify technology and drive up costs.

Alliances between content and electronics producers, not subject to market competition rather than government mandate will best bring consumers a wide array of choices in music, movies, television and other unique forms of digital art while still turning a profit for artists.
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Publication:Consumer Comments
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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