Congress Next in Copyright Tiffs

WASHINGTON — Copyright holders are predicting a grim battle in Congress next year as a result of the ongoing Napster lawsuit.

WASHINGTON — Copyright holders are predicting a grim battle in Congress next year as a result of the ongoing Napster lawsuit.

“When the outcome of the Napster case comes out, the losing side is going to be all over Capitol Hill next session and there will be your legislative battle,” said Robert Kruger, vice president of enforcement at the Business Software Alliance.

Kruger’s remarks came Monday, on the first day of a two-day international intellectual property conference organized by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Napster file-trading service has been sued in federal court in San Francisco for alleged copyright infringement.

Last Friday, the Clinton administration sided with the entertainment industry against Napster by submitting an amicus brief to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Amendments to U.S. copyright law — helping or hurting Napster — normally proceed through the House and Senate Judiciary committees. Congress is expected to adjourn in early October and meet again after the election in January 2001.

In July, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said he hoped both sides would benefit from “creative cooperation.”

“We must protect the rights of the creator,” Hatch said. “But we cannot, in the name of copyright, unduly burden consumers and the promising technology the Internet presents to all of us.”

David Corwin, senior counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America, said Monday that the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which Congress approved in October 1998, is “near and dear to our heart.”

He also said that the movie industry is “actively engaged in things aimed at propagating laws that will help us out,” but declined to elaborate. Corwin said that Hollywood’s real battle was not in federal court or in Congress — but in the court of public opinion.

The MPAA is in the unfortunate position, he said, of “trying to convince the public that piracy is wrong here.”

“We’re excited right now, though, because we just had three big court cases that we think are going to help us do just that,” Corwin said. “When people see the judicial system rule against something, it’s easier for them to comprehend that, in this case, it’s a crime to steal someone’s intellectual property.”

Besides the Napster litigation, big copyright holders have been busy suing their adversaries in court.

A federal judge in New York last week ruled that willfully violated copyright law.

Another district judge in New York said last month that a DVD-descrambling program that could facilitate copying was illegal to distribute under the DMCA.

The conference continues Tuesday with a panel devoted to “Intellectual Property Rights and the Internet: Digital Distribution and the Technological Threat to Intellectual Property.”

Nicholas Morehead contributed to this report.

Author: Declan McCullagh

News Service: Wired News


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