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Hatch To Lead Senate Panel on Intellectual Property

By Susan B. Shor
Mar 18, 2005 1:19 PM PT

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), once nicknamed "Terminator" for his 2003 comment that the recording industry should be allowed to remotely destroy the computers of file-sharers, was named today to head a new Senate subcommittee on intellectual property.

Hatch To Lead Senate Panel on Intellectual Property

While Hatch backed down slightly from that comment the next day, saying, "I do not favor extreme remedies -- unless no moderate remedies can be found," he has remained a staunch ally of the entertainment industry.

Let's Hatch Press Agenda

The formation of the subcommittee within the Senate Judiciary Committee was expected. Hatch was forced by term limits to step down as the committee's chairman at the end of the last legislative session. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) now heads the committee and appointed Hatch to the subcommittee, which will be responsible for copyright, trademark and patent law, and international treaties intended to protect American IP. It allows Hatch to continue to press the entertainment industry's agenda.

"What the subcommittee does is add another layer, but it doesn't change what happens," said Art Brodsky, communications director at Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy agency. "Everybody still recognizes the enormous influence that Mr. Hatch has over IP issues."

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, has been an ally of Hatch's in the past. The two last year introduced the "Induce Act," which was aimed at peer-to-peer networks but was worded so broadly some said it could outlaw the ubiquitous iPod. It would have held technology companies liable for any product that might "induce" consumers to make illegal copies of IP, such as music, movies or software. The act failed to pass last year and has not been reintroduced this year.

Stakes High

Brodsky held the "Induce Act" up as an example of what's at stake in the battle over digital rights -- the ability to design new content products and ways of delivering content to consumers.

There won't be much change in either the battlegrounds or the pace at which it proceeds because of the subcommittee, whose remaining members have yet to be named, Brodsky believes. He said that Public Knowledge would continue to advocate for fair use and work to oppose restrictive legislation.

"We have reason and logic and right on our side, but we're just mere mortals going up against the entertainment industry," Brodsky said. "The goal is not to give the content community control of everything, as they wish."

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