A pair of bills, one long sought by Hollywood and the other long reviled by the industry, could soon be on the way to the president's desk for his signature as a single measure.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- A pair of bills, one long sought by Hollywood and the other long reviled by the industry, could soon be on the way to the president's desk for his signature as a single measure.
The full House Judiciary Committee on March 9 approved legislation that includes language making it a federal crime to camcord a movie and making it easier for law enforcement officials to prosecute pirates for illegally selling motion pictures and music before their release to the public. Such new legal authority has been one of the entertainment industry's goals for years.
At the same time, the committee approved the Family Movie Act, which would indemnify from lawsuits companies that make video players that edit purportedly offensive content. The technology is part of litigation between Utah-based ClearPlay and the Directors Guild of America and the studios. If the bill becomes law, as appears likely, it could effectively end the suit.
The two bills were wed in a shotgun ceremony last year by the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee, which felt they could get the Family Movie Act through if they gave Hollywood something that it wanted -- namely, the camcorder bill. That strategy appears to be working, though it took a year longer than expected, as the bill was held up at the end of last Congress in an unrelated legislative tiff. The legislation, which also renews the Library of Congress film preservation program, already has won Senate approval.
Only one congressman, Rep. James Watt, D-N.C., said "no" when the bill, now known as the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, was approved by voice vote. Watt said he opposed it because of the inclusion of the Family Movie Act, which some lawmakers see as an intrusion on filmmakers' right to control their works.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., said he hoped the bill could win approval next week by the full House on its "suspension calendar" -- a voting schedule reserved for legislation to which there is no opposition. If it wins approval there, the next step would be for President Bush to sign it into law.
"We'll be ready to go by Monday," Sensenbrenner said. "But that's up to the House majority leader. It's relatively noncontroversial. It's not like the bankruptcy bill, but it all depends on how many suspensions they're willing to give the Judiciary Committee."
House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, sets the legislative schedule, and an aide in his office said the bill was unlikely to hit the floor next week, but will likely see floor action after Congress returns from Easter recess.
Lawmakers have a special sense of urgency because they want to get the legislation signed into law before the Supreme Court makes a decision on the Grokster case -- probably in June.
The Grokster decision will determine whether P2P technology is a violation of copyright law. Once that decision is made, the losing side is sure to petition Congress for relief. That debate is likely to swamp all copyright legislation.