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Copyright: The battle over online copyright liability heated up in the House, where several groups lobbied for and against a draft bill prepared by Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., chairman of the intellectual property panel of the House Committee on the Judiciary. The telecommunications and online companies oppose Coble's measure, which they say will leave them exposed to expensive lawsuits whenever someone uses their networks to transmit pirated software, music or data. But the copyright owners, including the Recording Industry Association of America, rolled out luminaries such as country music star Johnny Cash to testify in favor of the bill, saying it is needed to prevent large-scale piracy of their digital property. The telecommunications companies are backing a rival bill introduced by Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo.

Liability: Rep. Coble's copyright bill is also attracting opposition from hardware and software companies, who fear that Section 1201 of Coble's bill would expose them to lawsuits when their products - such as a computer chip or desktop computer - are used to bypass or disable copyright-protection technology. The technology is used by movie producers and software publishers.

Security: The House of Representatives approved the new Computer Security Enhancement Act of 1997 on Sept. 16. The bill, pushed by the Committee on Science, gives the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., more authority to promote government information security, partly through easier purchase of commercial security products.

Research: To promote industry alliances, the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program is planning to require that large companies pay at least 60 percent of any research projects that are funded by the program. However, the firms can cut their share of the costs if they establish joint ventures with other firms, according to the draft rules. The program provides some research funds to bolster companies' development of innovative technologies.

IRS Reform: Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has introduced the long-awaited White House bill intended to reform management of the Internal Revenue Service, even as a rival bill was pushed by Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., and Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Rangel's bill would strengthen the IRS' current managers, while the Kerrey-Portman bill would give much authority over the IRS to an outside panel of industry experts.

- Neil Munro


©1997, TechNews. All rights reserved.

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