Senate Panel Mulls Digital Piracy Issue

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A panel of U.S. senators took a group of entertainment and high-tech leaders
to task Thursday during a hearing to investigate the rise of digital piracy.

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee also warned that unless the
entertainment and technology sectors could come to agreement on how to stop
Internet pirates, the government may step in.

The disagreement between technology and consumer-electronics makers providing
the digital devices and entertainment companies supplying the content is
long-standing.

It centers on the ease in which material can be copied --
consumer-electronics makers have been reluctant to limit digital copying
capabilities for fear of consumer backlash.

'Copy protection must be effective, particularly in addressing the core
problem of unlawful Internet retransmission, but it must permit consumers to
continue to make recordings for their personal use within their homes just as
they have come to expect in the analog world since the advent of the VCR,'
former Thomson Multimedia senior executive vice president and chief operating
officer James E. Meyer told the committee.

Content providers, meanwhile, have been reluctant to provide digital content
for services including video-on-demand until they can be assured that it will be
copyright-protected.

'We know that we can never achieve -- and do not expect -- 100 percent
content security,' The Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Michael Eisner told the
committee. 'But there must be a reasonably secure environment to prevent
widespread and crippling theft of the creative content that drives our
economy.'

Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) has proposed a plan that would set a deadline
for the industry to decide the best method for protecting copyrighted material
on the Internet and next-generation digital-TV platforms.

'If they do, we will empower government enforcement so that all consumer
devices comply with the private sector's solution,' Hollings said at the opening
of the hearing. 'If they don't, the government's technologists and engineers, in
consultation with the private sector, will step in.'

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