A truce over copy controls?

The agreement calls for technology vendors and record companies to support technical measures to limit the illegal copying of digital content, so long as those measures don't destroy individual Internet users' data or equipment and don't violate privacy rights. The agreement doesn't mention the "fair use" rights of individuals to make copies of digital music files for personal use, but Rosen argued that it "protects consumer rights to use music as they want."

Senior executives of the three industry groups plan to set a date within the next few weeks to later meet and discuss the principles and how they will promote them.

Litigation Continues

Hollywood clearly intends to keep prosecuting what it considers violation of its copyrights. The RIAA and MPAA have sued Kazaa.com, a peer-to-peer music and television show site.

"We are doing what is best for the record industry," Rosen says of the MPAA's position. "It is not a judgment on what other people do."

Rosen says she supports manufacturing CDs in a way that allows the consumer to use them personally but not to distribute them to millions of strangers. While it may not be feasible to go after individuals, Rosen says she would like to see a warning for "infringers."

It's important to balance consumers' rights and those of the software industry, which loses an estimated US$11 billion annually to piracy, Holleyman notes. But he adds that it is in the software industry's best interest to spur consumer demand and get more products into the hands of consumers.

Internet piracy could have been addressed through new legislation, or by the industries' continuing to throw bricks at each other in Washington, according to Ken Kay, executive director of the Computer Systems Policy Project. Rather, the industries will aim to work together, he says.

The principles announced today could eventually lead to the increased availability of Internet-based content that is protected from piracy but also usable in ways that are fair to consumers, Kay adds.

Legislation Pending

Lobbyists of the allied industries already have some legislation to target. Senator Ernest Hollings (D-South Carolina) has proposed a Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act that calls for embedding copy protection technology in all high-tech devices. Hollings introduced that bill last year but it made little progress before Congress's winter break.

The agreement isn't intended to oppose any specific proposed legislation, but Rosen said she believes a "fair use" rights bill introduced last week by Representative Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) would conflict with language in the agreement. Boucher's bill goes too far in permitting any technology that has a legitimate use beyond illegal copying, according to Rosen.

The BSA's Holleyman said members of his group support the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which Boucher's bill would update.

"For now, we believe it's working," he said of the DMCA.

Grant Gross of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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