Hollings brainstorms digital copyright bill

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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) is working on legislation that would require the development of standards that will govern the way digital content is copy-protected, sources say.

The bill, largely advocated by The Walt Disney Co., would require consumer electronics manufacturers and computer makers to include standard digital watermarks with their products that would tell machines what and how many times content could be copied, sources say. Manufacturers oppose such legislation because in order for many of their products-such as VCRs and PVRs-to sell, people need to be able to copy TV programs and movies.

The two sides are warring about whether original digital programming that is aired on free over-the-air digital TV warrants copy protection.

Disney and other content providers say their digital TV programming needs to be protected. Allowing consumers to make perfect digital copies of first-run network programs would eliminate the syndication market, they say, because all TV shows would be available for ready download.

CE manufacturers say consumers have certain rights that allow them to make and use copies of some content, and consumers always have been free to copy as much free TV as their VCR can handle, they say.

Although the bill may include copyright provisions, sources say, the bill's main focus would be online privacy, on which Hollings has long been focused. The bill has not been introduced yet, and it's unclear whether Hollings will introduce it at all, although it could appear next month.
- Paige Albiniak

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