A coalition of 20 content-industry groups today (Nov. 11) sent a letter to the U.S. Senate calling for the passage of an omnibus intellectual property bill when members return for a lame-duck session

A coalition of 20 content-industry groups today (Nov. 11) sent a letter to the U.S. Senate calling for the passage of an omnibus intellectual property bill when members return for a lame-duck session next week.

With so much unfinished business for Congress to attend to -- for starters, passage of the nine remaining domestic appropriations bills -- the groups are crossing their fingers that their pleas will be heeded.

Six copyright and anti-piracy bills, now part of the Intellectual Property Protection Act (IPPA) of 2004, H.R. 2391, are stuck in the Senate. The bill has already passed the House and was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 7.

However, it was kept off the Senate floor at the end of the regular session by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., because of a movie-industry-related measure he believes is anti-consumer, the Family Movie Act. That bill allows companies to offer to the public movie-viewing software that can skip over material parents might think objectionable for children. However, Hollywood succeeded in getting wording in the bill that users cannot skip over commercials.

Insiders now say the best chance for passage of the six measures will be to unbundle or separate them into individual bills.

The signatories reminded lawmakers that creative works represent the U.S.'s greatest export and are critical to the country's economy, accounting for 11 million domestic jobs, according to a recent report by the International Intellectual Property Alliance.

The RIAA, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Recording Academy, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, National Music Publishers Assn. and Songwriters Guild of America are among the groups that signed the support letter.

Meanwhile, groups that oppose some of the bills, including the Consumer Electronics Assn., will hold a press conference tomorrow to discuss their lobbying plans during the lame-duck session.

Opponents believe that one component of the omnibus bill, H.R. 4077, could block legitimate technology, and could even make the music-sharing feature of Apple's iTunes program a crime.

In a letter to McCain at the end of the regular session, they complained that part of the bill "establishes 'offering for distribution' as the basis for a criminal copyright violation, and 'making available' as the basis for a civil violation -- regardless of whether there is any distribution or copying, let alone infringement."

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