Senator Ernest Hollings introduced a digital-copyright protection bill a month ago and since then thousands of protest letters, faxes and emails have reached congress.
The bill, backed and possibly edited by such media giants as The Walt Disney Co., is seen by many high-tech firms as a threat to technological advances and a danger on privacy since it does go as far as to dictate how consumers should listen to music or watch videos at home.
Although the threat of digital piracy is a very real one most believe that the bill, introduced by the South Carolina Democrat, poses more of a threat to privacy than a solution to piracy. Senator Hollings claims that the bill will encourage media and technology firms to work together to stop digital piracy. For the time being however, it seems to have created an even bigger rift between them.
At a hearing for Hollings' Commerce and Science Committee last month, Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner claimed that technology firms like Intel Corp. profit from digital piracy, and are not interested in resolving the problem.
Holling's side claim that technology firms have offered little help while the bill was drafted. "They seem satisfied to try to attack it in the press rather than trying to make it work," said Hollings spokesman Andy Davis.
The whole debate has caused widespread protests from well-connected lobbyists and average citizens alike. A web site has been created to organize the protests and to help the average voice to be heard. DigitalConsumer.org offers the latest information on the progress of the bill as well as an online Letter to Washington feature.
The group has requested a law that would clearly specify what is meant by "fair use" rights, such as the right to record TV shows for later viewing, or transfer a CD to a portable MP3 player.
"Until you have a positive assertion of what consumers' rights are, that debate is left in the hands of media companies' lawyers," said Krauss, head of DigitalConsumer.org.
But that is not all that the bill has to face before it is passed, Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, head of the Judiciary Committee which deals with copyright issues, is also opposed. Without Leahy's and the Judiciary committee's support it will be extremely difficult for Holling's bill to actually pass.