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October 11, 1998

DIGITAL COPYRIGHT LAW MOVES AHEAD WITH FEWER TEETH

By CBR Staff Writer

A substantially rehashed Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed the US Senate on Thursday with its more draconian provisions clipped. The act implements America’s obligations as a signatory to two international treaties passed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1996, but in their zeal to protect the IP assets of the world’s media and entertainment giants, those who drafted the act included some highly controversial measures. Most have since been watered down. As it now stands, the legislation won’t criminalize reverse engineering of computer security products, as many security professionals feared it would (CI No 3,468). The act still protects internet service providers from liability for copyright violations committed by their subscribers, but the Senate has also dropped a provision which protected copyright in databases even where the material in those databases is in the public domain. This provision angered librarians, universities and scientists. What remains could be the elusive compromise acceptable to – if not exactly embraced by – all the parties concerned. After months of wrangling, the House could approve the act any day now. With only a few days left before Congress adjourns for the year, however, lobbyists for the media giants now worry that the legislation could be left to languish until 1999.

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