Last week the Congressional Budget Office released a new report called "Copyright Issues in Digital Media." It should be essential reading on the Hill. The report upholds exactly the kind of evenhandedness that has been missing in much copyright legislation so far.
"Revisions to copyright law," the report argues, "should be made without regard to the vested interests of particular business and consumer groups."
The real test should be the economic efficiency of the marketplace - finding a way to balance the social benefits of a technology, like videocassettes, against the fears of copyright-owning movie studios.
The best way to accomplish that is to remember that copyright is an instrument "for allocating creative resources," not "an absolute, inviolable set of rights to which either creators or consumers are entitled."
That is not how Congress usually thinks about it. A good example is the so-called Induce Act, now under consideration, which would make it a crime to aid or induce copyright violations like illegal file-sharing.
But the bill is so loosely worded that it could threaten a host of legal information-sharing practices and technologies. That includes everything from the iPod to automatic online translation. Critics claim, with reason, that this overreaching bill would have deeply chilling effects on technological innovation.