Burns frees an iPod 

This week an atypical donation arrived in the mailbag at Sen. Conrad Burns’ campaign headquarters. The gift—a video iPod valued at $316.94—came courtesy of the Intellectual Property Action Committee (IPac), a group Executive Director Jake Fisher describes as a “political organization dedicated to balanced information policy.”

Sen. Burns, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation and Competitiveness, regularly deals with legislation concerning information policy issues like copyright, patents and broadcasting. And so IPac sent him the iPod as a way to get technology impacted by information policy into the hands of the senators making those policies.

The campaign, dubbed “Your Senator Needs an iPod,” resulted from a hearing on a proposal to mandate the embedding of copy-prevention technology into digital audio and video players, during which Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens revealed that his daughter had given him an iPod and then began questioning a Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) representative about the effects of the mandate, supported by RIAA, on Stevens’ ability to transfer recorded radio to his iPod. IPac’s Fisher heard “Sen. Stevens seeing that, wow, it’s not this completely one-sided thing. It’s not about piracy; it’s about innovation.”

Hoping to inspire a similar connection to the consumer perspective, IPac raised money through Internet solicitations to purchase the iPods, loaded them with digital audio, video and text available in the public domain and engraved them with the words “listen to the people” before shipping them to 12 senators, Burns among them.

The donation, sent to Burns’ campaign to comply with limits on direct gifts to members of Congress, didn’t sit around long once it arrived. According to Burns campaign spokesman Jason Klindt, “It has arrived, and we have already put it back in the mail.” The iPod donation, says Klindt, “is the first time we have received something technological” as a donation, adding that “it’s just not a donation that we want” and confirming that while Burns does not presently own an iPod, “if he wants an iPod, he’ll buy one.”

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