Hollywood studios pull for copyright bill

Despite Hollywood’s objection to a section of a bill that would create a new class of criminal penalties for people caught pirating movies, the major movie studios want the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 to pass, said John Feehery, the spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The bill’s major provisions would create a new class of felonies for moviegoers who bring a video recorder into a movie theater and for downloading a pre-released work on-line. Those caught taping movies inside a theater could be sent to jail for up to three years.

While the MPAA supports the stiffer penalties, it opposes a provision that would allow companies to make DVD players with filters for consumers to mute or skip past smutty parts of films and television programs.

The House was expected to pass the legislation last night; the bill was placed on the suspension calendar, meaning it needs a two-thirds supermajority to pass. The Senate approved the bill in February.

The major interest groups, the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), have been pushing Congress to crack down on piracy. They have even taken their agenda to the Supreme Court. Last month, the MPAA and the RIAA led arguments in MGM v. Grokster. The case will determine whether file-sharing services, such as Grokster, can be penalized because some consumers use that technology to pirate copyrighted movies and music. A decision is expected this summer.