With the industry failing to come to a consensus on a digital copy-protection
solution by Monday's deadline, wide-ranging legislation is required to get the
digital-television transition on track, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) told
broadcasters, consumer-electronics manufacturers, TV and movie producers and
technology companies Monday.
Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the
committee's top Democrat, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), plan to introduce the
bill after Congress returns from its August recess, although its chances for
moving this year are slim. Tauzin also plans to hold hearings.
Tauzin did say the industries could have until September to reach a
"Chairman Tauzin has drawn a line in the sand and said, 'If you can't come to
us with an agreement by September, we'll legislate one,'" Tauzin spokesman
Ken Johnson said.
The industries have been trying to agree on a standard to copy-protect digital-TV
programs so that they can't be copied and redistributed freely over the Internet.
The process has been contentious, however, because some consumer-electronics
manufacturers and technology companies want greater copying freedom to help
drive sales of recorders, while movie studios and TV producers want to protect
their intellectual-property rights.
In May, Tauzin gave the industries a July 15 deadline to come up with a
solution, but with none apparently emerging, Tauzin decided that it was time to take
a stronger approach.
"The industries have done a good job of moving the issues forward, but we
still don't have a deal that everyone can agree to," Johnson said.
A key part of that bill will be a provision to establish copy protection for
digital-TV content, but it will also encompass cable carriage of digital-TV stations,
the ability of cable set-top boxes to receive digital-TV signals and the inclusion of
digital-TV tuners in new television sets.
"Given the shakiness in the telecom sector today, the quicker we resolve
these digital problems, the quicker we can get people back to work and convince
consumers to start buying new products," Johnson said.
A bill has very little chance of moving this year, however, because Congress
is scheduled to end this session in October.
A new session of Congress begins next January, and the beginning of a new
session requires a new start on all legislation.