The Big Red Shearling toy bone allows dog owners to record a short message for their pet. Tinkle Toonz Musical Potty introduces a child to the "magical, musical land of potty training." Both are items on Fritz's Hit List, Princeton University computer scientist Edward W. Felten's web-based collection of electronic oddities that would be affected by legislation proposed by Democratic Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings of South Carolina. Under the bill, the most innocent chip-driven toy would be classified as a "digital media device," Felten contends, and thereby require government-sanctioned copy-protection technology.
The Hollings proposal--the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act--was intended to give entertainment companies assurance that movies, music and books would be safe for distribution over broadband Internet connections or via digital television. Fortunately, the outlook for the initiative got noticeably worse with the GOP victory this past November. The Republicans may favor a less interventionist stance than requiring copy protection in talking dog bones. But the forces supporting the Hollings measure--the movie and record industries, in particular--still place unauthorized copying high on their agenda.
This article was originally published with the title Fair Use and Abuse.