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Committee delays work on controversial electronic copyright bill

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Committee delays work on controversial electronic copyright bill06/17/96 WASHINGTON, D.C.--The House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property has…

Committee delays work on controversial electronic copyright bill

06/17/96

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property has for the fourth time delayed the mark-up of H.R. 2441, the NII Copyright Protection Act. The bill, which would update copyright law in response to the new technology of the Internet and National Information Infrastructure, was originally scheduled for approval on May 5, but has been delayed repeatedly because of unanticipated opposition.

The bill, based on the “White Paper of the Patent and Trademark Office Information Infrastructure Task Force,” would amend copyright law by explicitly extending its protections to works transmitted by the Internet. It would also add a section imposing civil liability for any service or device utilized with the “primary purpose” of circumventing a copyright protection system.

Opponents of the bill charge that it would undercut the development of cyberspace communications. The Digital Future Coalition, an alliance of 27 organizations opposing the bill, argues that it will not clarify current law. Adam Eisgrau, a spokesman for the DFC, said the bill deals only with the relationship between creators and licensees, ignoring long-standing copyright provisions — such as fair use and educational use exceptions — reflecting the goal of promoting science and the arts.

Supporters of the bill, organized as the Creative Incentive Coalition, respond that if copyright law is not clarified to apply in cyberspace, the medium will not develop because authors will be unable to preserve any rights to the works they produce. Ken Kay, Executive Director of the CIC, argued that although free speech is important, consideration must be given to the commerce that surrounds it.

Kay asserted that the bill would only codify what is already the law in practice. Journalists would benefit, Kay says, in their role as authors of works. The Newspaper Association of America is a member of the CIC and endorsed the “White Paper,” but has not separately endorsed the bill. (H.R. 2441)