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Congress pushing on digital copyright

Lawmakers urged content providers and consumer electronics manufacturers to complete negotiations over how digital TV content will be protected.

"The message is strong," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) at the Consumer Electronics Association's Digital Download conference in Washington on Tuesday. "Solve this problem if you can. Don't make us solve it for you."

"I'm urging that the content community be a little more forthcoming in these negotiations," said Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) during a luncheon speec. Boucher proposed legislation that would require VCRs and other copying devices to respond to digital "watermarks" that would include copy-protection instructions transmitted with free, over-the-air digital broadcasts.

Boucher sees such legislation as a way to resolve the ongoing digital copy-protection dispute between equipment manufacturers, who produce copying devices, and studios, who produce content. CEA praised Boucher's speech, which also suggested a number of modifications to current copyright law to protect fair-use copying of digital content.

Studios don't want Congress to get into fair-use issues, but would support a watermark bill, said one studio executive. Studios are concerned about the ability of consumers to make unlimited perfect digital copies of TV programs and circulate them on the Internet. That could eliminate international and other markets, they say. - Paige Albiniak