Clinton expected to sign legislation quickly

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives approved landmark legislation Monday updating copyright law for the digital age, sending the bill to the White House where President Clinton is expected to sign it into law shortly.

The bill, approved by the Senate last week (Daily Variety, Oct. 9), implements the provisions of two international treaties adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1996.

Showbiz interests, software makers, book publishers and other creators of copyrighted works pushed hard for the legislation, fearing that as their products increasingly became available on the Internet in digital form, pirates and criminals would be able to make and sell illegal copies easily.

The legislation creates criminal penalties for anyone who circumvents high-technology anti-piracy protections, such as encryption, used to block illegal copying. The bill also forbids the manufacture, import, sale or distribution of devices or services used for circumvention.

A variety of exceptions were also included at the request of libraries, scientists, universities and some manufacturers of consumer electronic devices. The bill also protects Internet and online service providers from being held liable for copyright infringements by their customers.

Republican leaders in the House delayed a vote on the bill for several days, angered by a high-technology trade group that last week selected a former Democratic lawmaker as its new president.

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