Content legislation on fast track

Congress is on a fast track to approve two major legislative initiatives affecting entertainment content.

The full House Judiciary Committee has approved a proposal making it a federal crime to record a movie with a video camera. It also makes it easier for law enforcement officials to prosecute pirates for illegally selling motion pictures and music before their release to the public. The legislation has long been sought by the Hollywood studios.

A not so popular piece of legislation with Hollywood, known as the Family Movie Act, is a bill that would indemnify from legal action companies that make video players that allow the removal of content offensive to viewers.

That bill stems from litigation between Utah-based ClearPlay and the Director’s Guild of American and the Hollywood studios. If the bill becomes law, as news reports say appears likely, it would effectively end the suit.

The two bills were bundled last year by the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee, which felt they could get the Family Movie Act through if they gave Hollywood something that it wanted — the camcorder bill. That strategy appears to be working. The legislation, which also renews the Library of Congress film preservation program, already has won Senate approval.

Lawmakers have a special sense of urgency on the legislation because they want to get the bill signed into law before the Supreme Court makes a decision on the Grokster case — probably in June.

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