[ISN] House Clears Digital Millenium Copyright Act

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Tue Oct 13 1998 - 02:08:25 PDT

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    House clears copyright bill
    By Courtney Macavinta
    Staff Writer, CNET News.com
    October 12, 1998, 4:55 p.m. PT
    The House today passed legislation to impose new safeguards for software,
    music, and written works on the Net, and to outlaw technologies that can
    crack copyright protection devices. 
    The Senate cleared the bill on Wednesday, and President Clinton is now
    expected to sign it into law. 
    Once the Digital Millennium Copyright Act becomes law, it will be a crime
    to create or sell any technology that could be used to break copyright
    protection devices or to commit an act of circumvention. The provisions
    will take effect 18 months and two years after the bill is signed,
    respectively. Violators could be charged up to $2,500 per act of
    The copyright legislation was introduced shortly after treaties signed at
    the World Intellectual Property Organization's Geneva conference on
    digital information and copyrights in December 1996. Technically, the
    Senate still has to ratify the international agreements, but it will
    likely wait to do so until after U.S. law is in compliance with the
    However, because the U.S. bills go much farther than the treaties, passage
    has been hard won. On one side are the powerful movie, record, and
    software industries arguing that the Net--and other computer
    networks--make it easier for people to illegally copy and distribute their
    products. That, in turn, stifles their desire to broaden e-commerce
    investments, companies say. 
    And Congress's action will likely be mimicked when other nations ratify
    the treaties signed in 1996. 
    "We are urging the president to sign this bill promptly because right now
    there are thousands of software pirate sites, bootleg serial number sites,
    and sites with piracy tools, and this bill gives us a certain remedy
    against all those people," said Mark Traphagen, vice president of the
    Software Publishers Association. 
    "We want the Senate to then ratify the treaties before it adjourns," he
    added. "That will have international significance because there is a whole
    world that is waiting for U.S. leadership on ratifying the WIPO treaties
    and making sure their laws measure up to the treaties." 
    But academia, computer researchers, and libraries lobbied for changes in
    the bill because they said it would let companies build a digital toll
    gate around their content, hindering current "fair use" rights that let
    citizens and educators copy and share material with certain limitations. 
    "Libraries agree this was about balancing the interest between copyright
    proprietors in having their material protected and the larger public
    interest in having continued access to information in the digital age,"
    Adam Eisgrau, legislative counsel to the American Library Association,
    said today. 
    Although concessions were made to address fair use concerns, the bill
    still favors intellectual property owners and their right to protect their
    For example, a provision was included to require Webcasters--such as the
    budding group of Net radio stations--to pay licensing fees to record
    companies, which could take a large chunk out of their gross revenues. The
    provision was created jointly by the Recording Industry Association of
    America, the Digital Media Association, and members of Congress. 
    The research community and general public did win some battles. As
    reported, a joint-house conference committee scrapped a section that would
    have given database owners broad powers to prevent others from using their
    valuable public data collections to launch competing businesses. 
    Still, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is taking the lead to bring up the
    database bill as separate legislation next year. 
    Moreover, the bill has exceptions to the so-called black box provision.
    The legislation passed by Congress today does permit cracking copyright
    protection devices to conduct encryption research, for the purpose of
    product interoperability, and to test computer security systems. 
    The librarian of Congress will set the rules for who exactly gets the
    exemptions and will work with the Commerce Department to study whether
    these technological barriers stifle fair-use access to copyrighted
    materials after the bill is passed. 
    The bill also carries a handful of safe harbors that limit Net access
    providers' liability for copyright infringements made by their customers. 
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