Privacy, Intellectual Property Rights Collide in Anti-Piracy Proposal

By Szadkowski, Joseph | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 20, 1998 | Go to article overview

Privacy, Intellectual Property Rights Collide in Anti-Piracy Proposal


Szadkowski, Joseph, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Can businesses own and control the use of materials on the Internet?

An ad hoc coalition of the high technology, telecommunications and creative industries is trying to make sure it can and that international borders don't erase copyright protection.

Enter "the WIPO Copyright Treaties Implementation Act," a bill being debated in Congress that sets out to protect publishers of copyrighted materials worldwide.

The Creative Incentive Coalition, which includes groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America and companies such as Microsoft Corp., is backing the legislation named for the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva.

The bill would clarify the rules of Internet access and define the legal responsibilities of on-line service providers to prevent piracy of copyrighted material.

"With this legislation, the Internet will become an even more vibrant, exciting source of information, ideas and entertainment," said Hilary Rosen, president and chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of America (www.riaa.com). "Securing copyright protections on line means more creative material on line, and that's good for the Internet, good for America's creative artists and good for the country."

Opponents, however, argue that H.R. 2281 could make it illegal for users to remove electronic mechanisms like cookies from their hard drives or to use any type of filtering software to keep these devices out.

Cookies are numerical identifiers sent out from a visited Internet site and placed on a user's hard drive that acts as a virtual doorman announcing a user's identity when they return. Cookies can monitor and track individuals by reporting to the site who you are, the last time you stopped by and what you did while within their electronic environment.

The key question under debate is whether the government has the right to pass a law that restricts the rights of users to take something off their own computers.

"The problem with H.R. 2281 is that if the bill is passed, it could make the individual who removes a cookie and software developers like me criminals," said Jason Catlett, founder of Junkbusters (www.junkbusters.com) a Greenbrook, N.J.-based company that provides software to stop the placement of electronic identifiers onto Web surfers hard drives.

"The intention of the [bill] could be toward hardware devices that are designed to circumvent materials such as music and film's `watermark' protection, or it could refer those identifiers, or cookies and cookie-filtering software, which is one of our fears," Mr. Catlett said.

Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) (www.epic.org), opposes the bill and said he believes laws are already in place to protect publishers.

"The on-line environment is regulated by the same rules and laws as the off-line world," Mr. Rotenberg said. "Because it is on line does not change the fact that copyrighted material can be duplicated and that remedies already exist when a person's copyright is infringed upon."

In his June 5 remarks before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, Mr. …

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