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Feds Seek ClearPlay Resolution

6 May, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A branch of the federal government has said it will begin hearings this month if there is no settlement in the ongoing copyright infringement lawsuit between the Directors Guild Association (DGA) and ClearPlay, manufacturer of software that allows DVD players to circumvent objectionable content.

F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has instructed his staff to begin laying the groundwork for a hearing in mid-May if there is no resolution.

The Los Angeles-based DGA in 2002 filed suit in Colorado against Salt Lake City-based ClearPlay, claiming the software altered the artistic integrity of a movie, among other allegations. ClearPlay contends that its service reads studio-produced discs at the consumer's command without altering the disc or its content; thus the studios and guilds have no legal claim.

“The chairman is hopeful they are able to reach an agreement,” said Jeff Lungren, House judiciary committee spokesperson. “If they are not able to reach an agreement, then he is interested in having a hearing and looking at the issue and perhaps legislation would be drafted on it.”

“Anything that can help the American consumer exert more control over what their family sees in their living room seems like a good idea to a lot of politicians,” said Fred von Lohman, attorney with San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has filed an amicus brief on behalf of ClearPlay.

ClearPlay's technology will soon hit mainstream consumers after Wal-Mart and Kmart announced plans to include the software in a line of proprietary DVD players.

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