Congress readies broad new digital copyright bill
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: April 23, 2006, 6:00 AM PDT
Last modified: April 24, 2006, 10:00 AM PDT
update For the last few years, a coalition of technology companies, academics and computer programmers has been trying to persuade Congress to scale back the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Now Congress is preparing to do precisely the opposite. A proposed copyright law seen by CNET News.com would expand the DMCA's restrictions on software that can bypass copy protections and grant federal police more wiretapping and enforcement powers.
The draft legislation, created by the Bush administration and backed by Rep. Lamar Smith
, already enjoys the support of large copyright holders such as the Recording Industry Association of America. Smith, a Texas Republican, is the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee
that oversees intellectual-property law.
A spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee said Friday that the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006 is expected to "be introduced in the near future." Beth Frigola, Smith's press secretary, added Monday that Wisconsin Republican F. James Sensenbrenner
, chairman of the full House Judiciary Committee, will be leading the effort.
The 24-page bill is a far-reaching medley of different proposals cobbled together. One would, for instance, create a new federal crime of just trying to commit copyright infringement. Such willful attempts at piracy, even if they fail, could be punished
by up to 10 years in prison.
It also represents a political setback for critics of expanding copyright law, who have been backing
federal legislation that veers in the opposite direction and permits bypassing copy protection for "fair use" purposes. That bill--introduced in 2002
by Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat--has been bottled up in a subcommittee ever since.