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CongressLine - The United States Embraces a Digital Millennium

By Carol M. Morrissey, Published on November 18, 1998

Battle Lines on the Homefront

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was originally designed as implementing legislation, became fraught with controversy as more and more provisions were added to the bill. One such provision was the Collections of Information Antipiracy Act, dubbed the database protection title, since it would have created a federal statute to protect the information contained on commercial databases. Not surprisingly, this particular provision raised the ire of the library community, researchers, educators and basically any party not profiting from the use of a commercial database. (To see the American Library Association's statement on the Database Protection Legislation, please go to:  http://www.ala.org/washoff/ipinfo.html.)

As the Digital Millennium Copyright Act headed for its House-Senate conference, the database protection provisions were only included in the House version. However, Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT), a supporter of the database protections and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, was lead Senate conferee. A vocal opposition developed as the conference progressed. Several senators (such as Sens. D'Amato (R-NY) and Moynihan (D-NY)) objected not only to the content, but also on the grounds that the Senate Judiciary committee had not given the issues raised by the title a full a fair hearing.

Time eventually ran out before a compromise could be reached and the collections of information antitpiracy sections were dropped from the bill. Key members, such as Sen. Hatch and Rep. Coble (R-NC) (the original sponsor of the bill) have vowed to revive the bill early in the 106th Congress. (for a brief American Library Association summary of the bill, see: http://www.ala.org/washoff/105sum.html#[2].) Pushing the bill into the next congress will not change the controversial nature of this legislation and as we now know, the battle lines are pretty clearly drawn.

Primary Intellectual Property Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALA Summary of Database Bill

RIAA's Press Release

 

 

U.S. Copyright Office

Overview of Interim ISP Regulations

And to the Victor Goes the Spoils

Several industries have cause to celebrate the passage of the DMCA. The recording industry scored a coup by sponsoring an amendment concerning"Webcasting," or the online broadcasting of music. The amendment which was adopted requires online music operators, such as Spinner or Netradio, to pay license fees to record companies for broadcasting songs in addition to royalty rates already paid to artists for performance rights. (Please go to: http://208.240.92.66/intprop/releases/online.htm for the Recording Industry Association of America's press release upon passage of the DMCA.)

Internet service providers (ISPs) are now protected from disgruntled copyright holders whose material is pirated and posted online. The DMCA defines when ISPs are immune from those seeking damages or monetary relief and punishes the technology used to pirate copyrighted material. However, in order for an ISP to be eligible for the protections provided under the Act, they must register with the U.S. Copyright Office and designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed infringements, poste haste (and pay a fee as well!). To see the interim regulations, please go to: http://www.lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/ and click on "Interim Regulations" (please note that this is a PDF file). An overview of the procedure specified by the regulations, with forms, can be accessed at: http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/onlinesp/.

The information technology industry has cause to celebrate since the DMCA contains a "no mandate" amendment which specifies that IT manufacturers and developers do not have to respond through design to every technological protection measure used by copyright owners to guard their works from piracy. This measure allows the IT industry to develop without fear of potential liability if they do not respond to each and every new protection device. (For the press release from the Information Technology Industry Council on the DMCA, please click here.)

The manufacture, import, distribution or sale of circumvention technology is forbidden under the Act, but there is an exemption for the development of encryption technology. Encryption research can go forward online without fear of reprisal. Also, nonprofit libraries, archives, schools and PBS stations are exempt from criminal prosecution under the copyright management information (or CMI) provisions. As one can see, this legislation, which was born of many compromises, has something for everyone.

For the press release of the Software Publishers Association on the DMCA, please go to: http://www.spa.org/gvmnt/releases/dmcapass.htm. To view the full text of the remarks given by Rep. Bliley (R-VA), chairman of the House committee on Commerce, on the DMCA, click here. To view the full text of the remarks given by Rep. Tauzin (R-LA), chairman of the House subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, on the DMCA, click here. Please note that the remarks given by several other members can all be accessed from the homepage of the Digital Future Coalition at: http://www.ari.net/dfc/.

ITI Press Release

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPA Press Release

Rep. Bliley's DMCA Remarks

Rep. Tauzin's DMCA Remarks

Digital Future Coalition