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Cash to carry panel word of Web piracy

WASHINGTON — Last week, the recording industry demonstrated at a Senate hearing how easy it is easy to download a near perfect copy of the “Evita” soundtrack from the Internet; now a House subcommittee will hear from Johnny Cash, who is scheduled to testify on the dangers of copyright piracy in the digital age.

Cash is set to testify on Sept. 17 in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property. In an effort to squeeze in as much testimony as possible before Congress closes down for the year, the subcommittee has scheduled three hearings on copyright-related issues during the next 10 days.

The first hearing, set for Sept. 16, will focus on the liability of Internet providers, such as America Online, when it comes to copyright piracy. America Online, in an alliance with some of the nation’s largest telephone companies, is pushing for changes to current copyright law that will give Internet service providers added protection against lawsuits charging copyright infringement.

Content providers, including companies repped by the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the Motion Picture Assn. of America, say that current copyright law is good enough for the digital age. They maintain that the online companies want to be indemnified from any responsibility from policing their networks for copyright pirates.

The hearing trilogy will kick off on Sept. 11 with a session on Internet Piracy. On Sept. 16, the subcommittee will focus on the online liability issue. On Sept. 17, the subcommittee will hear testimony on new laws which must be implemented in order to comply with the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty agreed to earlier this year in Geneva.

In order to comply with the treaty, the U.S. must pass laws that make it illegal to circumvent technological efforts to block copyright piracy. For example, the treaty would make it illegal to break a code embedded in a compact disc that makes it impossible to copy the CD onto a computer hard drive. The U.S. must also pass a law to make it illegal to erase or block from view encoded information about copyright ownership.

Although Cash is expected to testify on copyright piracy, Congress has agreed to hear the singer’s testimony on Sept. 17, during the hearing on treaty-related legislation.

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