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Bills to Back Consumers' Media Rights

October 03, 2002|JON HEALEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After watching the entertainment industry's anti-piracy agenda dominate Capitol Hill all year, allies of the consumer-electronics and technology industries are firing back with bills to ensure that consumers can make copies for personal use.

The two bills by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) are landing too late to pass this session, but supporters say that's not the point. They say the legislation is designed to frame the debate for next year, when the entertainment industry renews its drive for tougher copyright protections.

The bills would amend a provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act that makes it illegal to pick the electronic locks on copyrighted works. Lofgren and Boucher's bills would allow consumers to circumvent those locks to make backup copies or other "fair uses" of works they own.

"This bill will be strongly opposed by the Motion Picture Assn., the record labels and the book publishers, I have no doubt about that," Boucher said of the legislation he expects to introduce today with Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Rocklin). "And I'm looking forward to the debate."

Among the companies and groups backing Boucher are Intel Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., the American Library Assn. and Consumers Union.

Congress has held hearings on copyright issues but the focus has been on Internet-fueled piracy. Four influential lawmakers, including three committee chairmen, floated bills that would have given copyright owners more powerful tools to fight piracy, drawing criticism from manufacturers and consumer groups.

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