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02.18.2003
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Little chance of new copyright legislation this year

Within the media technology and entertainment industries there is little hope that Congress will pass significant legislation this year dealing with copy protection issues.

This view was shared by advocates of both sides of the issue at a Washington, D.C. conference last week sponsored by the Precursor Group, an investment research firm. Participants at the conference included representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The reasons for the predicted Congressional inaction will be a possible war in Iraq and a slowing economy. Members of Congress “are going to be distracted,” said Gary Shapiro, CEA president.

Some advocates want legislation that requires electronics manufacturers to install copy-protection devices on home entertainment devices. Others seek to expand the rights of consumers to copy movies and music for personal use.

“The prospects for legislation are rather dim,” said Fritz Attaway, general counsel for the MPAA. “I don't think any bill will be enacted without a large degree of consensus among the various affected industries.”

Legislation involving digital television policy remains mired in more pressing issues. Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) is working on a new version of a bill to speed up the rollout of digital TV. Though it is expected address copyright issues, no draft has yet been released.

The only copyright issue given much of a chance this year involves the controversial “broadcast” flag, a hardware block designed to prevent copying of some television programming.

“There's going to continue to be a lot of congressional sound and fury,” said Bruce Mehlman, assistant secretary of the Commerce Department. But there’s only a 10 percent chance, he predicted, of any major legislation actually being passed. The one exception: a broadcast flag bill.

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