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A Hollywood Congressman's Pledge to Fight Piracy

August 27, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Last week I put out a call for people to monitor the promises that their members of Congress make as they speak to constituents in their districts during the August recess. Here is a perfect example. Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) — pictured at right — represents a district that includes Hollywood. Last Thursday he spoke there at a US Chamber of Commerce panel on “antipiracy” where he promised to introduce a bill to Congress that would expand the size of the force responsible for policing copyright violations on the internet.

>A leading lawmaker will propose federal legislation requiring telcos and cable operators to send Internet subscribers a warning letter if they access pirated content.
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>Rep. Howard Berman (D-Los Angeles) disclosed Thursday at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce antipiracy panel in Hollywood that he’ll introduce the legislation as early as next month.
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>If enacted, it would mark a significant change in federal law by making Internet service providers responsible for piracy on their networks, not just those who download or share the content.
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>Berman, speaking at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, indicated that under the legislation there would be a phase-in period for ISPs to notify subscribers. “Initially, it would be a voluntary program,” he added.
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>Berman indicated he’d introduce the bill with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) through the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property.
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>Berman, a 13-term member of Congress whose district includes Hollywood, said the legislation will be part of a broader bill to strengthen anticounterfeiting efforts. It will require that federal agents enforce intellectual property violations by Internet service providers, mandate interagency cooperation and initiate the use of international attaches to provide information.

We’ll be watching Berman to see that he makes good on his commitment to introduce this bill. In the meantime, Ben Jones of TorrentFreak has begun wondering whether Berman’s proposal will be a viable piece of legislation that deserve his constituent’s support or a showboat bill designed to rouse their support despite an inability to effect realistic and meaningful reforms to aide in the entertainment industry’s fight against piracy:

>Such a system would only work if everyone only used sequential, single-source, plain text data streams. Any requirement for ISPs to be able to monitor usage in the way Berman wants, would have to require this, and so it makes online identity theft easy and simple – no encryption, nothing from multiple sources, or out of order. In short, he wants to cripple one of the greatest achievements of the twentieth century, in order to preserve the 1970s business practices of some parasitic middlemen, whose entire reason for being is to make money off other people’s creative efforts.

If you’ve heard your senators or representative speak in your district during the August recess, let us know what they’ve said and we’ll monitor them when they come back to Washington in September to see if they follow through with any promises they may have made. You can submit a tip to OpenCongress or email me directly at donny at ppolitics dot org with any video footage, audio recordings, transcripts, or approximate quotes you may have.

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