In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and two Judiciary copyright subcommittee leaders have publicly come out in opposition to a bill introduced by a committee member

In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and two Judiciary copyright subcommittee leaders have publicly come out in opposition to a bill introduced by a committee member, and chastised him for taking the bill to another committee for a hearing.

Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wisc., along with ranking member John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Rep. Lamar S. Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the Judiciary Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Subcommittee, took aim yesterday (June 23) at Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., a leading tech and Internet company advocate on the subcommittee.

Boucher's bill, the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, H.R. 107, was introduced in 2003. It would allow consumers to circumvent copyright-protection systems if they do so for non-infringing uses, such as making a copy of a CD for use in cars.

Record- and movie-industry lobbyists oppose the bill, saying it would leave the door open for hacking pirates as well.

Sources say such a law would put an unacceptably heavy burden on copyright holders to prove that copying was for an infringing use.

The measure, which has 15 co-sponsors, would also amend the Federal Trade Commission Act to ensure that copy-protected discs are clearly labelled as such and visible to consumers in stores.

"We strongly oppose the substance of H.R. 107," wrote the trio of lawmakers. "This legislation would eviscerate a key provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is successfully protecting copyrighted works and providing consumers access to more digital content than ever before."

Sensenbrenner and his colleagues continued: "In fact, a DVD player is now as common a household item as the VCR was 15 years ago precisely because of the DMCA. H.R. 107 would undo a law that is working and destroy the careful balance in copyright law between consumers' rights and intellectual property rights."

Insiders say what really rankled Sensenmbrenner, no fan of copyright industries, is that Boucher walked the bill over to the Energy and Commerce Committee -- after waiting a year for a Judiciary hearing that never took place.

"Furthermore, our strong objections to the substance of H.R. 107 are matched by our objections to what appears to be a bold jurisdictional power grab," wrote Sensenbrenner and his colleagues. "The Judiciary Committee has -- and has long had -- exclusive jurisdiction over copyright law. Rest assured, we will wholeheartedly oppose this move in a bipartisan fashion, as we would expect Energy and Commerce Committee leaders to do if we attempted to write energy legislation."