Leahy plans copyright reform combo


WASHINGTON -- Fearing gridlock in the Senate, a key lawmaker plans to package a series of copyright reforms into one legislative package in the hopes that he can push it through.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Hollywood Reporter that a "piecemeal" approach was unlikely accomplish much.

"I'd like to combine them," Leahy said. "We're seeing so many delaying tactics in the Senate, that we might get one piece and that's it for the year."

There are at least three bills introduced in Senate that address some form of copyright law reform. Leahy and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Wednesday reintroduced the Pirate Act making copyright theft a federal crime, and Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, that attempts to consolidate government intellectual property efforts and an omnibus crime bill by Sen. Joe Biden. D-Del., that also attempts to streamline the federal approach to piracy crimes.

There also are legislative proposals from the music industry that attempt to impose a performance royalty on over-the-air music broadcasts. One proposal circulating through Congress would give "small" broadcasters a break, but impose the royalty on major radio stations and station groups.

Leahy wasn't prepared to say if he would include the performance royalty in his big copyright royalty bill.

While he said he was "very interested in it," he admitted that there could be turf concerns. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over copyright law, but the Commerce Committee could make a play for a piece of the performance royalty as it oversees the radio industry.

"I want to get a package that doesn't have parts in other committees," he said.

Leahy might want to get a large package through, but he said he wasn't absolutely wedded to that approach.

"Obviously if I can't get a package through, that doesn't have all the parts I want, then we'll try other approaches," he said. "We can do a lot on appropriations, too."

While the authorizing committees like Judiciary and Commerce write the bulk of the laws, funding is done through the appropriations committees. Leahy also is a member of the Appropriations Committee.