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Hollings touts digital copyright bill

Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) is floating legislation that would require the entertainment and software industries to devise a universal standard to protect copyrighted digital content.

The senator's staff has distributed drafts of the bill to interested parties-including the television networks, NAB, Consumer Electronics Association, Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry of America, and software companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and Sun Microsystems. Hollings and co-sponsor Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) plan to introduce the bill this year and to hold a hearing on it Oct. 3.

The copyright industry has been working behind-the-scenes to convince the software industry to create an open and interoperable copy-protection standard, but so far no agreement has been reached. MPAA President Jack Valenti plans to meet with the heads of software companies on Sept. 20 in Silicon Valley to encourage them to work with the studios.

Backing Valenti, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has written a letter to John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems, asking him to get involved. "If an agreement cannot be reached privately, I believe that Congress will need to develop standards," Feinstein wrote. "It would be much better, however, if industry can work this out itself."

The bill would give the two industries one year to reach an agreement through private negotiations, and another six months if progress is being made. If things go badly, however, the bill would require the process to be turned over to the government, which would begin the process of writing a rule.

The bill would not apply to copying over-the-air broadcast TV or non-premium cable or satellite, to which established rules regarding copying would apply.
- Paige Albiniak