Uncertain Landscape For Copyright Protection [pdf]
In 2005, term limits require that Hatch hand over his chairman’s gavel to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) — an otherwise routine power shift that could have far-reaching implications for high-tech firms, movie studios, record companies and the future of downloading.
[...] “Hatch has been a tremendous champion of certainly copyright, but also of all the intellectual property issues. It’s not just a constituent issue for him. He’s been just a terrific chairman, so it’s a loss to not have him at the gavel,” said Robert Raben, a former House Judiciary staffer who now lobbies Congress on intellectual property issues on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America and other clients.
Opponents of the entertainment industry in the copyright debate — including high-tech companies, Internet service providers and civil-liberties advocates who have long argued that stiffened protections come at the expense of lost technological freedom — see Specter’s ascension as an opportunity to gain ground in a fight that they say has been stacked against them.
[...] “It’s not clear to me what [Specter's] positions are on these issues but I think he’s generally going to be a little more balanced. Hatch has really been an unabashed friend of the content industry and Specter has no such record,” said Gigi Sohn, the president of Washington-based Public Knowledge.
Wherever Specter comes down on the copyright debate, it’s an issue that will almost certainly take a back seat to other matters, at least at the outset of his chairmanship, former Specter staffers said.
[...] When he does come to grips with the copyright debate, Specter is unlikely to be too heavily swayed by what his predecessors have done, said David Urban, managing director of lobbying firm American Continental Group and a former aide to the senator.
“Everything is on the table. Everything is going to get a fresh look. Everything within the purview of the committee, he’s going to take a big interest in,” Urban said of Specter. “He’s very deliberative. He wades in up to his chest in all the details. He’s a guy who really likes to know all the subject matter.”
[...] But while opponents of the recording industry may be salivating at the prospect of starting the Senate debate from scratch, sources familiar with Hatch doubt the outgoing chairman will cede his copyright role that easily.