By Michael Grebb
WASHINGTON -- Several lobbying camps from different industries and
ideologies are joining forces to fight an overhaul of copyright law,
which they say would radically shift in favor of Hollywood and the
record companies and which Congress might try to push through during a
lame-duck session that begins this week.
The Senate might vote on HR2391 , the Intellectual Property Protection
Act, a comprehensive bill that opponents charge could make many users
of peer-to-peer networks, digital-music players and other products
criminally liable for copyright infringement. The bill would also undo
centuries of "fair use" -- the principle that gives Americans the
right to use small samples of the works of others without having to
ask permission or pay.
The bill lumps together several pending copyright bills including
HR4077, the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act, which would
criminally punish a person who "infringes a copyright by ... offering
for distribution to the public by electronic means, with reckless
disregard of the risk of further infringement." Critics charge the
vague language could apply to a person who uses the popular Apple
iTunes music-sharing application.
The bill would also permit people to use technology to skip
objectionable content -- like a gory or sexually explicit scene -- in
films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the
proposed law, skipping any commercials or promotional announcements
would be prohibited. The proposed law also includes language from the
Pirate Act (S2237), which would permit the Justice Department to file
civil lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.
Also under the proposed law, people who bring a video camera into a
movie theater to make a copy of the film for distribution would be
imprisoned for three years, fined or both.