Skirmishes between content-producing companies seeking expansive copyright protections and hardware and telecommunications corporations on the other side have resulted in a legislative deadlock on Capitol Hill.
Some of the most influential technology companies are planning to announce on Tuesday an alliance that they hope will end the impasse. Called the Personal Technology Freedom Coalition, its purpose is to coordinate lobbying efforts in opposition–at least initially–to the most controversial section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Currently, that controversial section of the DMCA broadly says no one may bypass a copy-protection scheme or distribute any product that is “primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing” copy protection. The movie industry, record labels and many software publishers are fiercely protective of that section of the law, saying that digital rights management, or DRM, systems backed up by the law are necessary to reduce piracy.
But members of the nascent coalition, including Intel, Sun Microsystems, Verizon Communications, SBC, Qwest, Gateway and BellSouth, are lending their support to a proposal by Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., to rewrite that part of the DMCA. Boucher’s bill says that descrambling utilities can be distributed, and copy protection can be circumvented as long as no copyright infringement is taking place.