After a legislative brawl that spanned two Congresses, the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act appears to be on its way to the president's desk for his signature.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- After a legislative brawl that spanned two Congresses, the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act appears to be on its way to the president's desk for his signature.

The House scheduled a vote on FECA for April 19. Because the Senate already has approved the legislation, the vote is likely to be the last one seen on the bill.

That doesn't mean the path to final passage was easy. The FECA bill started out as several separate pieces of legislation: one bill that federalized a camcorder crime, another that made it easier for law-enforcement officials to prosecute pirates for illegally selling motion pictures and music before they are released to the public. Both were supported by the entertainment industry.

Another bill, known as the Family Movie Act, was not supported by Hollywood. It would indemnify from lawsuits companies that make video players which edit purportedly offensive content from lawsuits. The technology is part of a lawsuit between Utah-based ClearPlay, the Directors Guild of America and the studios. If the bill becomes law, as appears likely, it effectively would end the suit.

The legislation includes a third bill, which also renews the Library of Congress' film-preservation program.

The bills were welded together by the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee, which felt it could get the Family Movie Act through if they gave Hollywood something that it wanted -- namely the camcorder bill and prerelease legislation. The film-preservation bill went along for the ride.

That strategy appears to have worked, though it took a year longer than expected after the bill was held up at the end of last Congress in an unrelated legislative tiff.

Lawmakers have a special sense of urgency with the legislation because they want to get it signed into law before the Supreme Court makes a decision on the Grokster case, probably in June.

The Grokster decision will determine whether Grokster's and StreamCast's operation of their peer-to-peer networks violated copyright law; it is expected to modify the rules for secondary copyright infringement law. Once that decision is made, the losing side is sure to petition Congress for relief, and that debate is likely to swamp all copyright legislation.

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