April 18, 2024

Fast-Forwarding Becomes a Partisan Issue

Remember when I suggested that Republicans might be more prone to copyright sanity than Democrats? Perhaps I was on to something. Consider a recent Senate exchange that was caught by Jason Schultz and Frank Field.

Senator John McCain (Republican from Arizona) has placed a block on two copyright-expansion bills, H.R. 2391 and H.R. 4077, because they contain language implying that it’s not legal to fast-forward through the commercials when you’re watching a recorded TV show. McCain says he won’t unblock the bills unless the language is removed. (As I understand it, the block makes it extremely difficult to bring the bill up for a vote.)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Democrat from Vermont) responded by blasting McCain, saying he had blocked the bill for partisan reasons. Here’s Leahy:

In blocking this legislation, these Republicans are failing to practice what they have so often preached during this Congress. For all of their talk about jobs, about allowing the American worker to succeed, they are now placing our economy at greater risk through their inaction. It is a failure that will inevitably continue a disturbing trend: our economy loses literally hundreds of billions of dollars every year to various forms of piracy.

Instead of making inroads in this fight, we have the Republican intellectual property roadblock.

Do the Democrats really want to be known as the party that would ban fast-forwarding?


  1. jvance is right that there are other issues than digital rights. Having said that, I would find it very hard to vote for any candidate who thinks that big business (or big government, it makes no odds) should control my electronic devices that I’ve bought and paid for. If they want to control me when I use my computer, phone, TV or video recorder, then they can buy the hardware and pay me an hourly rate to use it. If they aren’t prepared to do that, they can go away while performing anatomically impossible acts on themselves.

  2. Alex Macfie says

    Phil’s right in saying both main parties have people on both sides, although CBDTPA was disproportionately sponsored by Democrats. So Republicans may be slightly better but I still don’t buy the theory that the GOP is ideologically more geared to digital freedom than the Democrats.

    By European standards both main American parties are economically conservative (“liberal” as it’s called in much of Europe), theoretically pro-market but in practice pro-business and pro-rich — and politicians from both are prone to corruption from business funding. In most industries the big money tends to go to Republicans so it’s the Republicans who tend to campaign for special privileges for business while claiming to be pro-market. The entertainment industry is unusual in that most corporate donations go to Democrat politicians. hence the large number of Democrats opposed to digital rights.

  3. This might be the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever heard, for two reasons. First of all, a political system isn’t built on just one plank. If all you care about is IP, then maybe it is, but there are other things I’m concerned about. Let’s face it, IP is in trouble because of technology (now moreso than ever before). The second reason this is ridiculous is that banning the ff button, no matter how technically correct, is in itself ludicrous. For instance, say I time shift multiple shows onto a single VHS tape. I rewing back past the beginning of the show I want to see, and now I have to wait to watch it.


    I think McCain has lined himself up for the repugnant, err, republican nomination in 2008. It’s the only way I can rationalize his backing of dubya this election season.

  4. I’m not sure I agree with your thesis here. I’ve made a
    quick list of congressmen for/opposed to digital rights
    , and both parties have their fair share of pro-freedom and anti-freedom people.

    Does anyone has a more complete list?

  5. Good grief. Well, this is another example of why McCain is one of the most respected senators of either party. It’s a real shame he didn’t win in 2000, and I hope he’ll run and win his nomination in 2008. Then even if the Democrats lose, I won’t lose sleep.