Property rights at risk, MPAA chief sez

WASHINGTON — Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Jack Valenti today will tell a group of Internet professionals that online commerce is headed for a “digital disaster” unless copyright owners can secure their intellectual property rights on the Internet.

According to an advance text of his speech to Summer Internet World ’98, Valenti will pitch the virtues of the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties now being debated in Congress. Valenti’s speech is scheduled for the same day the House Commerce Committee is expected to approve a WIPO-related bill that runs counter to Valenti’s position.

The Commerce Committee is expected to give a nod to the libraries’ and consumer manufacturers’ demand for greater leeway when it comes to circumventing technological barriers such as encryption designed to thwart copying of copyrighted material. The legislation is designed to bring the U.S. into compliance with the WIPO treaties.

Although librarians and the Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Assn. may win the day in the House Commerce Committee, the powerful coalition that includes both the MPAA and the Recording Industry Assn. of America will have opportunities to revisit the bill during floor debate of the full House and during conference debate with the Senate. During the conference, the House and Senate will work out differences between the bills.

In the meantime, Valenti will beat the drum on the importance of the WIPO treaties. According to him, the biggest danger with Internet commerce for the movie industry and other content owners is “the invasion of the copyright snatchers”: the wave of piracy many intellectual property owners fear if they make works available in cyberspace.

The best way to keep pirates off balance, according to Valenti, is to approve the WIPO treaties, which will allow content owners to secure their intellectual property through encryption and other anti-copying devices.

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