Music, tech groups reach copyright deal
WASHINGTON -- The music and technology industries, which have battled over consumers downloading music on the Internet, have negotiated a compromise to protect copyrighted works such as movies and songs without new government requirements, people familiar with the plan said Monday.
The agreement, expected to be announced today in Washington, contends that U.S. laws do not need to be amended, for example, to permit consumers to make backup copies of compact discs they purchase or copy songs onto handheld devices. The technology industry also will announce its support for aggressive enforcement against digital pirates.
Under the plan, future generations of entertainment devices won't be required by law to have locking controls that make it more difficult to copy digital entertainment. Technology companies have complained that the locking devices are too expensive and complex.
The deal attempts to heads off government intervention in the rising debate over what consumers can do with copyrighted material they have purchased.
The agreement was negotiated among the Recording Industry Association of America, the Business Software Alliance and the Computer Systems Policy Project. The software alliance's members include Microsoft, Apple Computer Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc.; the policy project is made up of chief executives from IBM, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
Officials with those organizations declined Monday to discuss the agreement in any detail, except saying they had achieved "landmark consensus." Industry executives and others described its provisions on condition of anonymity for The Associated Press.
Notably absent from the new copyright agreement was the Motion Picture Association of America, which has aggressively supported new government requirements for built-in locking controls on new devices, such as DVD recorders. A spokesman for the group declined Monday to comment until after the agreement was formally announced.
The agreement could affect a controversial bill by Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., that would prohibit the manufacture or distribution of "digital media devices" -- such as handheld music players -- unless they include government-approved copy restriction technology. The bill's passage has been in doubt since the 2002 election, since Hollings lost the chairmanship of the Commerce Committee when Republicans won the majority in the Senate.
The agreement also could affect efforts such as those by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Rick Boucher, R-Va., to allow consumers to make backup copies of music or movies and use copies on different devices. Lofgren, for example, wants permission for consumers to resell or give away music or movies they purchase, and to impose protections for consumers who break locking controls that violate these rights.
Boucher said Monday that he was told by executives at Intel that the company supports both the new agreement and his bill, which would require copy-protected music CDs to be labeled, among other things. Boucher said he believes that means the new agreement is "not inconsistent" with his bill.
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., praised the agreement for helping to overcome what he said was the "growing rift" between the music and technology industries.
"I hope the rest of the creative and technological communities get on board with a unifying message and ... we can tone down the divisive rhetoric that has otherwise predominated many copyright and technology debates," Berman said in a statement.