Washington, D.C., March 17, 1999 – Calling on Congress to avoid imposing restrictions on compilations of information available to the public, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) today submitted testimony to the U.S. House Judiciary Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee, opposing the database legislation being considered. CCIA urged the panel to move cautiously and to ensure that factual information and data remain in the public domain.
The Subcommittee is considering legislation (H.R. 354) that would restrict public access to databases and compilations of information and, in some cases, impose burdensome new taxes on that factual information. A hearing on H.R. 354 is scheduled for tomorrow morning, and CCIA, joined by the the Information Technology Association of America and the Online Banking Association, submitted written testimony opposing the legislation, which would apply to the printed and electronic content in publicly available stock prices, directories, lists, statistical compilations and other sourcebooks.
“It’s absurd to grant ownership rights for publicly available facts. Databases are important sources of information for research and education and can be critical tools in facilitating electronic commerce and technological innovation. Now is not the time to take this valuable information out of the public domain, away from consumers,” said CCIA President and CEO Edward J. Black
CCIA is an international, nonprofit alliance of computer and communications firms. Its membership includes CEOs and senior executives representing, among other businesses, computer equipment manufacturers, software providers, communications and networking equipment manufacturers, and telecommunications and online service providers.
“Our political leaders, regardless of party affiliation, have been virtually unanimous in their verbal support to foster Internet growth without the burden of unnecessary government regulation. This bill would turn those promises upside down with new intrusive and unprecedented regulations on Internet information flow,” Black said.
Databases are compilations of information that have been sorted, classified or manipulated in such a way as to be commercially viable. To grant the first sorter, classifier or manipulator of the underlying information a timeless grant of monopoly control over that information would create a host of unintended consequences, which would take years to unravel, Black said.
In their testimony, CCIA and the other opponents of H.R. 354, the Collections of Information Antipiracy Act, pointed out a number of fundamental flaws in the legislation: “Inherent in the structure and approach embodied in H.R. 354 are certain problems and unintended consequences that we believe cannot be effectively cured without shifting to a new template. [The legislation] starts with a broad and monolithic prohibition on access to and use of information and then tries to carve out piecemeal exceptions to that prohibition.” In fact, three separate federal agencies have raised serious competitive and Constitutional concerns about the pending legislation.
CCIA further stated that it could support federal legislation that:
- would not harm legitimate research activities and the public;
- was targeted toward preventing unfair competition in the form of parasitic copying;
- preserved the fair use of information;
- promoted the progress of science, education and research;
- protected value-added publishers and their customers; and
- provided safeguards against monopolistic pricing.
“The database industry is robust and competitive despite doomsday claims that court decisions could harm this business. The limited number of business proponents of this legislation have failed to demonstrate a need for this legislation,” said Black.
CCIA and the others urged the subcommittee members to work with them to craft meaningful legislation to address the actual problems and harms identified by the proponents of H.R. 354 without inadvertently stifling America’s growth and progress in the Information Age.