WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Tuesday formally asked Congress to approve two international treaties designed to protect copyright-rich industries in an era when perfect digital copies can be made and distributed with little more than a computer and a modem.
Both the music and film industries are enthusiastic supporters of the treaties’ ratification. They fear that without the international agreements, the Internet allows virtually anyone, anywhere to distribute pirated material with impunity.
The music industry is particularly concerned because sound is currently much easier to distribute via the Internet than video. “As new technologies make it easier to steal, it’s important that stronger laws make it harder,” said Recording Industry Assn. of America president and CEO Hilary Rosen.
Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti also urged Congress to approve the treaty Tuesday. “The world is looking to the United States,” said Valenti. “If we don’t ratify quickly, it will put to hazard these treaties, without which our efforts to protect our intellectual property around the globe will be shrunk.”
At least 130 countries must sign onto the agreements before they go into effect.
Also Tuesday, legislation was introduced in Congress to bring U.S. law into compliance with the two World Intellectual Property Organization treaties.
House Intellectual Property subcommittee chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.) introduced a bill that would make it illegal to circumvent technological efforts by copyright owners to block the duplication of a copyrighted work. For instance, it would be illegal for an individual to try to break the code embedded in a CD that makes it impossible to transfer a song onto a computer’s hard disk. The legislation also makes it illegal to delete information that identifies a copyrighted work, its owner or the conditions for its permissible use.