The bill passed the subcommittee unanimously in June but progressed no further. Several high-tech, consumer electronics and public interest groups opposed it, partly because the legislation would extend licensing requirements to home recording. Although such uses would be licensed free, the legal precedent worried them.
Getting that bill and other intellectual property legislation through Congress is tricky. The issues are complicated and don't break down along party lines. Lawmakers' views often are based on the makeup of their constituents. Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), for example, has been a big supporter of copyright protections because of Nashville's role in country music.
Those dynamics make legislative skills important, said Mitch Bainwol, head of the Recording Industry Assn. of America. Berman, he said, has the ability to muster the broad bipartisan support needed to turn ideas into laws.
"Everybody views him as a wonderfully honest broker with a deep substantive grasp of the issues and an unusual ability to legislate," Bainwol said.
That's what concerns people opposed to Hollywood's vision of copyright protection.
"Howard Berman's a smart guy," Palafoutas said. "I wish he wasn't so smart."