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WASHINGTON — Henry Hyde, the former Republican congressman from Illinois who chaired the House Judiciary Committee when it approved a brace of major copyright law changes beneficial to the entertainment industry, died Thursday in Chicago. He was 83.
Hyde chaired the key congressional committee when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act came before it. The bills were critical to Hollywood’s battle to protect copyrighted works from piracy. He had undergone open-heart surgery in July, was admitted for persistent renal failure related to his cardiac condition and suffered from a fatal arrhythmia.
“I am saddened today to learn of the loss of Congressman Henry Hyde, my friend and former colleague, and a true champion of copyright protection,” said MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman, a former lawmaker who served with Hyde.
Hyde’s support was essential to getting the bills through Congress.
“During his terms in the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Hyde championed the cause of working Americans, particularly those who make their living off of their ideas,” Glickman said. “He was a stalwart force in enacting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as well as the Copyright Term Extension Act. Henry defended the rights of creators by upholding the valued safeguards on creative works and ideas.”
A huge man with a mane of white hair, Hyde looked as if he belonged in Congress at a time when it still provided spittoons. He was genuinely liked by his opponents for his wit, charm and fairness, but he could also infuriate them with his positions on some of the more controversial issues of the day.
Hyde retired from Congress at the end of the last session. This month, President Bush bestowed on him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he led the 1998 House efforts to impeach Clinton for allegedly lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and in the following year served as the chief House manager in the unsuccessful bid to win a Senate conviction.
While his anti-abortion, anti-Clinton stance was in sharp contrast to Hollywood’s general feelings, Hyde was a strong supporter of the industry. He loved the movies and was a friend of former MPAA president and CEO Jack Valenti. Both men were bonded by their experience in World War II and their love for film.
In 2001, subject to term limits that House Republicans imposed on their own committee chairmen, Hyde stepped down as chairman of the highly partisan Judiciary Committee he had led since 1995 to take over the far less contentious International Relations Committee.
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