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WEB PIRATES PLUNDER ON LEGISLATION DOING LITTLE TO STOP ILLEGAL COPYING OF MOVIES, MUSIC.

Byline: Lisa Friedman Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Congress has failed to find a way to effectively stop the illegal downloading of copyrighted movies and music that rob the entertainment industry of $3.5 billion each year, leading crusaders against Internet piracy say.

In recent interviews and testimony on Capitol Hill, advocates of anti-piracy legislation have come to the conclusion that strict federal regulation is all but useless in reining in the illegal uses of file-sharing software like Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster.

``We haven't come up with a legislative solution,'' admitted Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles.

Added California Sen. Dianne Feinstein: ``I'm not sure what we can do at this stage.''

Asked if she saw any legislative answers, Democrat Feinstein, who testified along with Waxman before the Senate Judiciary Committee a few days ago on the dangers of ``peer-to-peer'' networks, said, ``Not so far.''

Only Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has proffered a solution - technology that would destroy the computer files of anyone who, once warned, continued to attempt a download of copyrighted material.

``Those laws are there to protect our artists and novelists. If we can find some way of doing this short of destroying their computers, I'm interested. But if that's the only way, I'm all for that,'' said Hatch, a musician who holds several copyrights himself.

But he later quickly retreated from those inflammatory comments, issuing a statement that said: ``I do not favor extreme remedies, unless no moderate remedies can be found. I asked the industry to help us find those moderate remedies.''

Peer-to-peer file sharing networks let users rummage through each other's hard drives for music and other files through a decentralized network. The entertainment industry in particular has targeted P2P because the shared files often are illegally downloaded songs and even first-run movies that are protected by copyright.

Recent testimony before Congress, however, has shown an even more dangerous side to the software. Users often unwittingly expose their entire hard drives so that anyone else with the same software can tap into that person's resume, tax returns or any other personal document saved on the system.

Even more disturbing to some officials, an anti-piracy company recently found more than 500 users of file-sharing software at Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA and the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval War Systems Command.

``We are aware of it, and we are dealing with it,'' said NASA spokesman Brian Dunbar, who declined to comment on whether sensitive data was exposed.

The Navy declined to comment on the matter. Los Alamos spokesman James Rickman issued a statement saying the nuclear weapons lab's classified computing system is not connected to the Internet, so no classified documents can be stolen through the use of P2P networks.

``While we are aware that peer-to-peer software crops up on a small number of computers from time to time, it is not a widespread problem at Los Alamos National Laboratory and does not present a threat to classified information or national security,'' he said.

Los Angeles-based MediaDefender Inc. found Kazaa operating on 155 Los Alamos computers, 138 NASA computers and 236 Space and Naval War Systems Command computers.

Lawmakers appear eager to fix the problem but confused as to how.

Just this month, Reps. Dianne Watson, D-Los Angeles, and Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, launched separate caucuses devoted to focusing legislative attention on intellectual property matters. But neither of them has introduced legislation addressing the problems, and neither plans to.

``It's time to look at new business models,'' Bono said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., co-founder of the Intellectual Property Rights Caucus, said: ``There's no single quiver. ... By the time you legislate, you're often obsolete.''

Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti, in a briefing to Watson's congressional entertainment industry caucus this month, lambasted P2P networks like Kazaa as ``thieves'' but did not propose any regulations or new federal policies.

Instead, Valenti focused on education and security standards that technology companies and copyright owners are hammering out together to prevent unauthorized reproduction and distribution.

Chris Murray, legislative counsel for Consumers Union, agreed that better awareness and better technology, not new policies, are the best tools for solving piracy and protecting personal documents.

``Any time we try to regulate peer-to-peer ... we're also talking about regulation of the Internet in general,'' he warned.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys, said he had not given up on a legislative solution.

Berman last year took heat both from Hollywood and the high-tech industry when he introduced a bill to give copyright holders the technology to protect their files.

Privacy organizations felt the bill went too far, while members of the entertainment industry feared liability provisions that would hold them responsible for actually damaging computer files or data.

``I still think it's a good idea,'' Berman said, although he has not reintroduced the bill.

Instead, he is focusing on nonregulatory measures like pushing the Justice Department to more aggressively go after copyright infringers, encouraging universities to sanction students who use the school network to illegally download and supporting online services that let people get the movies and music they want legally.

``There are ways over and above legislation,'' Berman said. ``If you act responsibly, then we don't have as much need to legislate.''

Lisa Friedman, (202) 662-8731

lisa.friedman(at)langnews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 23, 2003
Words:886
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