20 July 1998 Thanks to DM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House Commerce Committee approved legislation to update U.S. copyright laws for the digital age, but not before amending the bill to protect the interests of libraries and universities.
The legislation, previously approved by the Senate and the House Judiciary Committee, implements provisions of two international treaties passed by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1996.
By a 41-0 vote, the Commerce Committee sent the legislation to the House floor. Before the House can vote, however, lawmakers must reconcile the bill with the earlier version approved by the Judiciary Committee.
Lawmakers had struggled for the past month to craft a compromise preserving fair use" of copyrighted works that was acceptable to Hollywood studios, music and book publishers and the software industry.
Publishers have long relied on scrambling, encryption and other security measures to ward off thieves seeking to illegally copy and sell copyrighted works in digital form.
Before being amended on Friday, the copyright legislation created a prohibition against circumventing such measures for any reason.
But libraries and others feared new high-tech safeguards would not only thwart pirates and thieves but also limit free "fair use" that permits copying of works for educational or other non-commercial purposes.
Ultimately, the libraries feared such safeguards could be used to create pay-per-use works that they could no longer lend to their patrons for free.
Publishers said a ban was needed because thieves would use any legal circumvention techniques or software to make illegal copies.
Friday's amendment, completed in a last-minute negotiating session on Thursday that stretched past midnight, would give the commerce secretary discretion to relax portions of the circumvention ban if safeguards were inhibiting legal uses of copyrighted works.
The compromise amendment, sponsored by Wisconsin Republican Scott Klug, would delay the anti-circumvention rule for two years while the commerce secretary reviews the problem.
After two years, the anti-circumvention rule goes into effect. But at that time and again every two years, the secretary could waive the rule for any class of works where technological safeguards were harming the ability of users to access works for lawful purposes.
The committee also approved an amendment allowing cryptography researchers to crack anti-piracy safeguards as part of their work. And an amendment was added allowing Internet users to disable such measures to prevent the collection of personal information.