You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Safe harbor’ bill takes aim at pirates

Reg would allow showbiz to hack into copyright abusers

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) took the wraps off a controversial bill Thursday that would slap an official stamp of approval on the showbiz battle to block illegal peer-to-peer online file-swapping networks.

Co-sponsored by Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and also backed by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Berman’s bill would create a legal “safe harbor,” protecting copyright holders from legal retribution as they take steps to hack online systems they believe are abusing their copyrights.

While the still-unnamed bill doesn’t point to any specific techniques, it could potentially clear the way for film studios and record labels to block access to a network perceived to be a threat, overwhelm it with fake files (a process known as “spoofing”), or even unleash viruslike software to disable it entirely.

That possibility has raised the hackles of many in the technology community, who worry that Berman is clearing the way for entertainment congloms — many of which do business in his Los Angeles district — to decimate peer-to-peer technology and potentially do significant harm to individual users in the process.

“What he’s doing is legalizing online copyright vigilantism,” said Ellen A. Stroud, government affairs rep for peer-to-peer software developer Streamcast. “Consumers are saying that they want to connect directly and share information; peer-to-peer allows them to do that, and we will continue to provide that technology.”

But Berman insists his bill comes with restrictions to protect Web users and the legitimate online business community from becoming collateral damage in big media’s war on cyber-piracy.

The legislation, he argued, contains specific restrictions against any copyright holder planting viruses directly onto a user’s computer, or reaching in to erase files from hard drives. And if a company abuses the safe harbor, the bill offers a provision allowing users to sue for damages.

“Because its scope is limited to unauthorized distribution, display, performance or reproduction of copyrighted works on publicly accessible P2P systems, the legislation only authorizes self-help measures taken to deal with clear copyright infringements,” Berman said in Capitol Hill testimony.

The leadership of the entertainment biz gave the Berman-Coble measure a thumbs-up, but not entirely without reservation.

“We’re pleased that a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Howard Berman and Howard Coble, wants to curb the explosion of Internet piracy,” Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Jack Valenti said. “However, there are aspects of the bill we believe need changing as it moves through the legislative process.”

Specifically, the MPAA would like to see the legislation’s focus expanded to include other methods of sharing pirated content over the Internet beyond peer-to-peer technology — such as online chatrooms and instant-messaging software.

Recording Industry Assn. of America chief Hilary Rosen was less reserved in her praise of the initiative.

“The current landscape for online music is dangerously one-sided, with the peer-to-peer pirates enjoying an unfair advantage” Rosen said. “It makes sense to clarify existing laws to ensure that copyright owners — those who actually take the time and effort to create an artistic work — are at least able to defend their works from mass piracy.”

More Digital

  • How Netflix Uses Technology: A Look

    How Netflix Wants to Take on Its Competition in 2019 and Beyond

    “They’re going to do some great shows. I’m going to be envious.” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings practiced humility when he was asked about new competitors like Disney’s and Apple’s upcoming streaming services this week. “These are amazing, large, well-funded companies with very significant efforts,” he said. “But you do your best job when you have [...]

  • AVOD streaming video OTT users -

    Comcast Unveils 'Flex,' a Streaming Service for Internet Customers

    Comcast said it would unveil “Flex,” a hub for its Internet-only customers that allows them to stream and purchase shows and movies, the latest effort by a traditional cable provider to latch on to customers who are migrating to broadband services, The Philadelphia cable giant will also make free, ad-supported services available via the service, [...]

  • splice

    Splice Raises $57.5 Million in Latest Funding Round

    Splice, a favorite of music creators that allows access to a library of three million rights-cleared sounds, announced today that the company closed a Series C funding round at $57.5 million. That brings Splice’s total amount raised to roughly $102 million since its launch in 2013. It raised a Series B in November of 2017. [...]

  • Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime

    Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime Emmy Nomination

    Facebook is now in the awards hunt: Its popular original series “Red Table Talk” hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith was nominated for a 2019 Daytime Emmy. It appears to be the first-ever Daytime Emmy Awards nomination for a Facebook-funded show, although a company rep was unable to confirm that. “Red Table Talk” is nominated in [...]

  • MLB-TV

    MLB.TV Joins Lineup on Amazon's Prime Video Channels

    Amazon has launched MLB.TV on Prime Video Channels for Prime members in the U.S., just in time for the start of Major League Baseball’s 2019 regular season start next week. The MLB.TV package provides regular-season out-of-market baseball games, both live and on-demand. Prime members in the U.S. can subscribe to MLB.TV for $24.99 per month, [...]

  • Tencent Music Shares Drop Despite Solid

    Tencent Music Shares Drop Despite Solid First Earnings Report

    Proving that good is not always good enough, Tencent Music Entertainment shares fell 9 percent after the Chinese company released its 2018 earnings, wiping out $2.7 billion in market capitalization of what is arguably the biggest audio music service in the world. Chalk it up to big expectations and a short track record: Wednesday’s earnings [...]

  • PewDiePie - YouTube

    PewDiePie vs. T-Series: YouTube Channels Keep Battling for No. 1 Spot

    UPDATED, 3/21: The back-and-forth competition for YouTube’s No. 1 spot continues. T-Series on Thursday again pulled ahead of YouTube’s PewDiePie as the No. 1 most-subscribed channel on the platform — but again the vlogger-gamer-comedian fans’ rallied behind him to retake the position. In a months-long symbolic running battle for the title, PewDiePie and his fans have [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content