Gov. Bush signs MPAA bill

Florida the eighth state to approve such laws

WASHINGTON — Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed a studio-backed bill Tuesday extending state laws against cable and satellite theft to cover new forms of distribution such as the Internet.

Victory puts the MPAA’s state-by-state campaign back on track after it suffered a setback last month, when Colorado governor Bill Owens vetoed a similar bill (Daily Variety, May 22).

The new laws, which have drawn fire from high-tech heavyweights such as Gateway and Microsoft as well as from fair-use advocates, expand the definition of “communications services” already protected in most states and ban the use of many types of devices that could be employed to steal the services.

Opponents argue the laws are so broadly written they could be used to ban the use of TiVo-style recorders without permission of the cable or satellite TV provider, or to bar people from connecting PCs to other entertainment devices in the home.

In Florida, tech groups and consumer electronics makers launched a furious last-minute lobbying campaign to try to persuade Bush to veto the bill.

In an effort to quiet critics, MPAA agreed to insert language in the bill that bans recording devices only when used “with the intent to defraud” the service provider.

Florida is the eighth state where such laws have taken effect, following Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Arkansas.

Similar bills are pending in Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee and Oregon.

MPAA officials called the win in Florida a major victory.

“Like any new business, the next generation of digital services must be assured that shelves will not be looted when they open for business,” MPAA senior VP for state legislative affairs Vans Stevenson said.

“Contrary to the claims of others, under this law computers, TiVos, VCRs and multipurpose devices remain perfectly legal and can be connected without committing a crime or fear of being sued by a cable operator,” Stevenson said.

He said the new law would protect Internet-based video-on-demand services against being hacked or redistributed over the Web.

“This will give people the confidence to invest in new services, including more Internet-based on-demand services,” Stevenson said.