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IP: Congress Poised To Approve Digital Copyright Law

From: [email protected]
Subject: IP: Congress Poised To Approve Digital Copyright Law
Date: Fri, 09 Oct 1998 18:41:50 -0500
To: [email protected]

Source:  Fox News - Reuters

Congress Poised To Approve Digital Copyright Law
            3.08 p.m. ET (1909 GMT) October 9, 1998

 WASHINGTON  Congress was expected to complete work later Friday on
legislation to update copyright law for the digital age, after removing a
controversial provision granting new rights to databases. 

 The bill, which the Senate approved Thursday and the House will consider
Friday, implements provisions of two international treaties adopted by the
World Intellectual Property Organization in 1996. 

 Software makers, movie studios, book publishers and other creators of
copyrighted works have pushed hard for the legislation. They feared that as
their products increasingly became available on the Internet in digital
form, pirates and criminals would be able easily to make and sell illegal

 The legislation creates criminal penalties for anyone who disables
high-tech, anti-piracy protections, such as encryption, used to block
illegal copying. The bill forbids the manufacture, import, sale or
distribution of devices or services used for circumvention, as well. 

 "This was a huge win for us,'' said Richard Taylor, spokesman for the
Motion Picture Association of America. The movie industry will depend
heavily on anti-piracy technology for movies distributed in all manner of
formats, he said. 

 A variety of exceptions were also included at the request of libraries,
scientists and universities as well as some manufacturers of consumer
electronic devices. They feared the law would prevent some kinds of
research and would unfairly limit "fair use,'' the central principle of
existing copyright law allowing copies to be made for educational and other
noncommercial purposes. 

 The exceptions include allowing circumvention if done for computer
security testing, encryption research or limited kinds of computer software
development. Internet surfers could also circumvent in limited ways to
protect their privacy and parents could circumvent to monitor their
children's travels through cyberspace. 

 "What we've really been fighting about for the last few months was the
exceptions,'' said Jonathan Band, a lawyer at Morrison & Foerster who
worked with groups seeking to protect fair use. 

 Band criticized Congress for criminalizing devices instead of actions only
and for ignoring a person's motives for circumventing. "Given that Congress
chose to go about it entirely the wrong way, it ended up pretty well,'' he

 In addition, at the urging of Band's group and others, the
anti-circumvention laws will not go into effect for two years, until the
Librarian of Congress, with advice from the Commerce Department, decides
whether additional exceptions need to be made. Such exceptions would be
reconsidered in a recurring process every three years, at which time new
exceptions could also be created. 

 The bill also defined broad freedom from liability for online and Internet
service providers, like America Online , which otherwise might have been
held financially liable for copyright infringement by one of their millions
of customers. 

 Under the bill, service providers will not be held liable for violations
they do not know of but if notified by a copyright holder, must take rapid
action to shut down the alleged violator. However, if the copyright holder
fails to pursue the claim in court within a few weeks, the alleged violator
has the right to demand that online access be restored. 

 The controversial database provision, that was added at the last minute to
the House version of the bill by North Carolina Republican Rep. Howard
Coble, was dropped by a conference committee of members of both chambers. 

 The provision would have overturned a Supreme Court ruling and granted
copyright protection for the first time to databases assembled out of facts
that themselves were common knowledge and not protected by copyright law. 

 "The library community is extremely grateful that a sea change in American
law was not made,'' Adam Eisgrau, lobbyist for the American Library
Association, said. 

                      Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved
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