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Bill for Anti-Piracy Shield Proposed

Internet: Measure would provide some protection against lawsuits for firms trying to protect their copyright material.

July 26, 2002|JON HEALEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Music, movie and game companies that launch technological attacks against pirates using file-sharing networks would have broad protection against lawsuits under a bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Mission Hills).

Berman's proposal drew praise from major record labels and Hollywood studios, as well as cautious support from a group of high-tech companies. But other technology groups remained on the fence, and two leading file-sharing networks denounced the bill as damaging to consumers.

The bill isn't likely to become law this year, given how little time remains before Congress adjourns for its August recess. But Berman hopes the proposal will at least get a hearing in the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts, the Internet and intellectual property, which is led by one of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.).

In contrast to other anti-piracy proposals introduced this year, the Berman bill wouldn't force electronic devices to use a specific technology. Instead, copyright owners would be free to use any technology to disable, block or impair their works from being pirated on a file-sharing network, provided that they didn't damage users' computers or block other files from being traded.

Nevertheless, attorney Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Federation said, "That sort of vigilante justice often can have unintended collateral consequences."

Also Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge in Massachusetts to rule that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act doesn't bar a researcher from picking electronic locks on software to gain information critical to his inquiries. The researcher, Benjamin Edelman, is studying a controversial Internet-filtering program used by many schools and libraries.

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