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Hollings offers digital piracy legislation

Mar 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Legislation introduced late last week by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., would require media companies to adopt standards to protect digital television and broadband content from Internet piracy or have the government do it for them.
The bill gives the TV, movie, consumer electronics and computer industries one year to adopt the standards for TV sets, cable set-top boxes and personal computers. That may seem like a long time, but they’ve been squabbling for years on how to proceed. In the current proposals, consumers would be permitted to make copies for their own use but with restrictions.
Sen. Hollings, who heads the Senate Commerce Committee, moved ahead with the legislation even though the Senate Judiciary Committee recently warned that his measure might force these industries to accept government-imposed standards that could quickly become outdated.
“Some have said that legislation is unwieldy in this area,” Sen. Hollings said. “But our legislation would not be the first time Congress imposed technological requirements to benefit consumers. And it won’t be the last.”
Both Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, and Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner applauded the move. They worry that digital content, which can be easily replicated without any loss to picture quality, will become a prime target of people looking to make a fast buck or see programs for free.
Also last week, Sen. Hollings effectively declared war on the Federal Trade Commission, threatening to slash its fiscal year 2003 funding unless the agency reneges on an agreement to relinquish its media merger review authority to the Justice Department. The FTC is seeking $176.6 million in 2003 funding.