Speaker support

Gingrich, others to back copyright treaties

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) promised entertainment industry lobbyists Thursday that he would support legislation necessary for U.S. ratification of two important copyright treaties.

Gingrich’s promise, made during a private meeting with Hollywood’s Washington reps, came just one day after the Commerce Committee refused to approve legislation that would bring the U.S. into compliance with two World Intellectual Property Organization treaties.

Commerce Committee chairman Thomas Bliley (R-Va.) delayed the vote in an effort to force the copyright-rich entertainment, publishing and software industries to work out a compromise with the American Library Assn., which wants changes to a bill already approved by the Senate.

Also during the closed-door meeting, Gingrich and House Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-Texas), promised the House would approve another bill which would add 20 years to the current copyright term. The Motion Picture Assn. of America is backing the copyright term extension, which would make the U.S. copyright term equal to the European Union’s.

The meeting was called by House Entertainment Task Force chairman Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and had been scheduled for several weeks, sources say.

The content industries say they need the U.S. to lead the way on ratification of the treaties so that other countries will follow suit. The entertainment, publishing and software industries are growing increasingly alarmed about the ability of an individual using nothing more than a computer and an Internet connection to duplicate and distribute around the world unauthorized copies copyrighted material.

MPAA prexy and CEO Jack Valenti said neither Gingrich nor other members of the House leadership made specific promises to break the deadlock in the Commerce Committee. “He gave me the bottom line, and that’s all I needed to know,” said Valenti of Gingrich’s promise to have a final floor vote on both WIPO and copyright extension. “I felt much better after speaking to the Speaker of the House,” said Valenti.

Recording Industry Assn. of America president and CEO Hilary Rosen said that the meeting with Gingrich and other powerful Republicans was confirmation of support for the treaties and other entertainment industry issues.