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Leahy: No copyright legislation this year - Broadcasting & Cable

Leahy: No copyright legislation this year

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The movie studios should not expect legislation to pass this year that would
force technology companies to add copyright protection to all copying devices,
including computers. That was the word from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman
of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Frankly, I think it would be a disaster to try and legislate this today,"
Leahy said. The movie studios -- particularly The Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. --
want technology companies to agree to copyright practices that would protect
digital-broadcast content from being copied and distributed freely over the
Internet. They also want tech companies to help them end the practice of
peer-to-peer file-swapping, which enables Internet users to freely download all
sorts of digital content off the hard drives of networked computers.

Unlike Senate Commerce Committee chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), Leahy
takes the side of technologists, who do not want the government to interfere
with how they build computers or do anything that will discourage use of the
copying devices they make.

Hollings, by contrast, plans to introduce legislation as soon as next week
that would require the industries to negotiate a solution between them within 18
months or face government intervention.

At Thursday's hearing, Intel Corp. president Craig Barrett and incoming AOL
Time Warner Inc. CEO Richard Parsons both said they didn't want the government to get
involved and promised lawmakers that they were making headway on the issues.

Although they don't want to move legislation, Leahy and Sen. Orrin Hatch
(R-Utah), the panel's ranking member, asked the industries to report on their
progress every two months. Studio executives put the best face on it,
saying that although Leahy was not taking their side, they feel that they are making
progress.

"We are greatly encouraged by the high level of interest from three different
Senate committees regarding film piracy," said Preston Padden, Disney's top
lobbyist.

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