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Alliance Formed on Piracy Issues

Major record labels and two high-tech trade groups urge government to enforce copyright laws rather than mandating technologies.

January 15, 2003|Jon Healey | Times Staff Writer

Distancing themselves from Hollywood, major record companies Tuesday announced an agreement with two high-tech trade groups that urges the government not to require anti-piracy technology in computers and other devices.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America, which represents record labels, along with the Business Software Alliance and the Computer Systems Policy Project adopted seven "policy principles" that call on government and the courts to enforce existing laws against piracy rather than mandating specific technologies.

The principles also stress that the government shouldn't limit the anti-piracy technologies deployed by the record companies, nor should it regulate how the companies satisfy consumer expectations.

But the pact may have little effect on the debates in Washington over technology mandates and consumer rights. That's because two of the most active lobbying forces on those issues -- the motion picture industry and consumer-electronics companies -- weren't involved.

The movie studios have pushed Congress to require a wide range of digital devices to include standard anti-piracy technology. The studios also have lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to require that digital TV equipment prevent programs from being retransmitted over the Internet.

In contrast, the Consumer Electronics Assn., which represents equipment makers, has urged Congress to guarantee consumers' rights to make copies of digital media for personal use rather than mandating anti-piracy technology.

Jack Valenti, chief executive of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, said Tuesday that the movie and music industries have different strategies for addressing piracy. "We are not prepared to abandon the option of seeking technical protection measures via the Congress or appropriate regulatory agency," he added.

Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Assn., said, "While we also support private negotiations between device manufacturers and content developers, we continue to believe that legislation is required to strike the necessary balance between protecting copyrights and consumers' fair-use rights."

The pact announced Tuesday represents little change, if any, in the three groups' positions.

Instead, it simply makes clear for policymakers that the entertainment industry is divided on the issue of technology mandates, and that technology companies are divided on consumer rights.

Recording Industry Assn. Chief Executive Hilary Rosen said the goal of the agreement was to eliminate the "needless battles and rhetorical arguments [that] have divided people who make music from the very technology companies that we depend on."

The agreement leaves plenty of room for interpretation. For instance, although Rosen said its principles run counter to a bill by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) that would guarantee consumers' right to copy digital media for personal use, at least one member of the two technology trade groups -- Intel Corp. -- plans to continue lobbying for the measure.

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