Amendment To Anti-Piracy Bill Angers Dems

Committee OKs addition of Family Movie Act.

The House Judiciary Committee today (Sept. 8) marked up and then passed a major anti-piracy bill, but Democrats on the committee are angered that Republicans attached an unrelated bill that could impede full House passage.

The main provision of the Piracy Education and Deterrence Act, H.R. 4077, gives prosecutors the authority to go after egregious uploaders of unauthorized copyrighted files as possible felons. The bill would also require peer-to-peer services to post warning notices stating the legal dangers of file-sharing, and it provides for extra federal copyright-enforcement funds and training programs.

However, at today's Judiciary Committee hearing, markup chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Ill., counted on GOP votes to successfully add a bill that is opposed by Hollywood to the anti-piracy legislation.

The add-on bill, the so-called Family Movie Act, H.R. 4586, would allow companies to remove scenes of sex or violence from movies and offer a "clean" version for sale without fear of being prosecuted for copyright infringement. Companies that employ the ClearPlay software, which can be used for such "filtering" purposes, are now involved in lawsuits filed by directors and film studios.

The amended bill with the new measure attached was put forward by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. It now goes to the House floor for approval.

The day before the markup, the two top Democrats on the committee, Reps. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Howard Berman of California, wrote to Sensenbrenner and Smith to ask them to reconsider.

"It is troubling that now that [H.R. 4077] is virtually finalized, you are contemplating on a unilateral basis to add the controversial and unrelated language," wrote the two Democrats. "While H.R. 4077 will be a non-controversial initiative, H.R. 4586 retains significant opposition from members and industry and could jeopardize the passage of H.R. 4077."

As amended, the bill may pit Hollywood studios against movie directors, insiders say. As much as the studios don't like H.R. 4586, Hollywood and the recording industry want the tougher anti-piracy standards. They might choose to allow H.R. 4077, now with the Family Movie Act attached, to proceed to the House floor without lobbying further against it.

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