In February 1993, President Clinton formed the Information Infrastructure Task
Force (IITF) to articulate and implement the Administration's vision for the
National Information Infrastructure (NII). The IITF is organized into three
committees: the Telecommunications Policy Committee (TPC) which formulates
Administration positions on relevant telecommunications issues; the Committee
on Applications and Technology (CAT), which coordinates Administration efforts
to develop, demonstrate and promote applications of information technologies in
key areas; and the Information Policy Committee (IPC), which addresses critical
information policy issues of the NII.
The Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights (WGIPR) was established
within the Information Policy Committee (IPC) to examine the intellectual
property implications of the NII and to make recommendations regarding changes
to U.S. intellectual property law and policy. The so-called 'White Paper'
embodied the Working Group's analysis and recommendations.
This was the inflection point where people made decisions about what
your future is going to look like. In the case of the 'White Paper',
the Information Policy Committee of the IITF decided that intellectual property
rights were going to be maximally protected. Consequently, they formed the
Working Group to look at the issue to see if it might be necessary to change
the Copyright Act in order to facilitate the NII. In order to have well
ordered commerce on the NII, you have to have workable and enforceable rules of
the road. Disney and other movie studios made it clear that under no
circumstances would they distribute movies on the NII if copyright laws
pertaining to the NII were ambiguous or unenforceable. After taking a good,
long look at the issue, the Working Group decided that the Copyright Act was a
healthy work horse of an Act, and with a few minor adjustments, fully capable
of handling new technologies for at least a couple more years.
The most interesting aspect of the 'White Paper' is that its
commerce based position raises several conflicts with the current state of the
Internet, both philosophical and technological. Philosophically, it comes into
conflict with the 'Information wants to be free' mentality of the Internet.
Technologically, it comes into conflict with the fact that there is no longer
any mechanical or cost barrier to reproduction. Despite the Working Group's
confidence in the Copyright Act, industry interests prevailed, and the Digital
Millenium Copyright Act was spawned.