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Solon to click on piracy hearing

Proposal calls for agency creation

WASHINGTON — Setting the stage for a showdown among the major studios, Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) has signaled he is ready to proceed with legislation forcing the tech biz to sit down with Hollywood and figure out a way to stop Internet piracy.

Introduction of the bill would be a victory for the Walt Disney Co., which is pushing hard for Capitol Hill intervention. Warner Bros. — whose parent AOL Time Warner has vested interests in tech and content — and Sony, however, have been among those urging Hollings to let the various parties negotiate a solution in the boardroom vs. the hallways of Congress.

Hollings’ proposal would set up an agency called the National Institute of Standards and Technology if the private sector didn’t agree on protection technology within one year. Any such congressional mandate would prove a milestone in the history of the Internet, putting government in the middle of the action.

The bill also would mean a delicate balancing act for Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy-CEO Jack Valenti, whose job is to rep the seven majors. Like Disney and Fox Filmed Entertainment, Valenti has been lobbying for government intervention should private negotiations fail. But Warner and Sony even hesitated at Valenti testifying last week before the Senate Commerce Committee, chaired by Hollings. Ultimately, Warner and Sony supported Valenti’s appearance. Hollings’ legislation is likely to be another matter, however.

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