Plugging technology into copyright law


WASHINGTON -- Endorsing a first, tentative step toward modernizing the nation's intellectual property laws, the entertainment and information industries yesterday welcomed a draft recommendation from the Clinton administration on extending the copyright law to cover on-line services and other corners of cyberspace.

Record companies, film studios and book publishers have been increasingly concerned about illegal copies of musical recordings and texts being exchanged over electronic networks.

The amendments proposed by a Commerce Department task force would limit unauthorized copying of software and other intellectual property, making it clear that existing copyright protections applied to the electronic realm.

The task force also recommended outlawing the manufacture and importation of devices used to crack anti-copying encryption codes. And in a proposal that brought a swift rebuke from the broadcasting industry, the task force said copyright owners should be given a "performance right," which would enable musicians and other performers to collect fees from digital broadcasters for the first time.

Congress has done little with the nation's copyright laws in nearly 20 years, but the administration plans to unveil new legislation based on the task force's recommendations later this year, after the Commerce Department holds a series of public hearings on the piracy problem.

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