Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawmakers Looking at How the Internet Impacts Copyright

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawmakers Looking at How the Internet Impacts Copyright

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Major content providers -- and the director of the federal copyright office -- argued yesterday that Internet companies should not be eligible for the special licenses that satellite and cable companies have to carry broadcast programming.

But Web businesses, testifying at a congressional hearing, said this puts them on an uneven playing field and singles out their technology as different from others.

As more companies seek to stream network TV and radio programming over the Internet, lawmakers have been raising questions about whether existing law applies to the online world or what changes should be enacted.

As technology improves, "the law must evolve as well to protect the intellectual creations and to provide a convenient means of access to those creations for consumers," said Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., who chairs the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property.

Current law enables cable operators and satellite companies to get special blanket licenses so they can retransmit broadcast programming without getting individual consent from each company. They then pay a portion of their revenues into a fund which is distributed to the individual copyright holders.

But many content providers are dead set against granting Internet companies so-called compulsory licenses, saying that the medium differs starkly from cable and satellite.

"Cable is to the Internet what lightning is to the lightning bug," said Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, at yesterday's hearing.

For example, an Internet site can take a broadcast signal and instantly send it all over the world. And there is also the potential for near-perfect digital copies to be made, Valenti noted.

Edward Fritts, head of the National Association of Broadcasters, also raised concerns about Internet sites streaming programming in the same markets where the local stations already carry those signals. …

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