Unanimous decision

Senate OKs changes to U.S. copyright law

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve changes to U.S. copyright law that takes the nation one step closer to ratification of an international treaty designed to make the Internet safer for owners of intellectual property.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is designed to make it tougher for copyright pirates to traffic in unauthorized material on the Internet. It is enthusiastically supported by content-rich industries such as the movie, recording and software industries.

The key elements of the legislation make it illegal to attempt to bypass technological efforts to encrypt material to prevent illegal copying. The bill also requires intellectual property owners to label all works with information about the copyrighted material.

In addition, the bill requires online service providers to remove material that infringes a copyright once they have been notified by the copyright owner.

“This legislation is crucial to the defense of copyright and the protection of intellectual property around the world,” said Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti after the bill passed the Senate in a 99-0 vote.

The legislation, if also approved by the House and signed into law by President Clinton, would bring the U.S. into compliance with two World Intellectual Property Organization treaties. Although both the House and the Senate must vote on changes to the U.S. law, only the Senate can vote on the ratification of the treaty itself.

The House has not yet scheduled a vote on its version of the bill.