Legislative History

After passage in the Senate of H. R. 2281 (105th Cong., 2d Sess.), this bill and House bill H. R. 2692 were sent to a Conference Committee. The report of this Committee is below. The enacted legislation (see H. R. 2281 EN on web site page) was the result of discussions that raised several questions, and demonstrated that the legislation was a high priority for the House conference members.

This conference report, No. 140 -- Part II, appeared in the Congressional Record: October 8, 1998 [Senate] [PageS11887-S11892], which reported the Legislative day of Friday, October 2, 1998. It was accessed using GPO Access, on December 31, 1998.

Parts of the report not related to the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act have been omitted.


[Page: S11887]

Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I submit a report of the committee of conference on the bill (H.R. 2281) amend title 17, United States Code, to implement the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty and Performance and Phonograms Treaty, and for other purposes, and ask for its immediate consideration.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The report will be stated.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The committee on conference on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the amendment of the Senate to the bill (H.R. 2281), have agreed to recommend and do recommend to their respective Houses this report, signed by all of the conferees.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of the conference report.

(The conference report is printed in the House proceedings of the Record of October 8, 1998.)


The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.

[Page: S11889]

Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the conference report be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, and that any statements relating to the conference report be printed in the Record.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The conference report was agreed to.

Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, in the wining days of a Congress, so many important measures need attention that the significance of individual bills is often not appreciated. This is even more true for a bill that has copyright as its subject matter, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the conference report which passed the Senate today by unanimous consent. But the DMCA is one of the most important bills passed this session, as the distinguished majority leader stated yesterday.

`Digital Millennium' may seem grandiose, but in fact it accurately describes the purpose of the bill--to set copyright law up to meet the promise and the challenge of the digital world in the new millennium. Digital `world' is appropriate here, because the Internet has made it possible for information--including valuable American copyrighted works--to flow around the globe in a matter of hours, and Internet end users can receive copies of movies, music, software, video games and literary and graphic works that are as good as the originals. Indeed, the initial impetus for the DMCA was the implementation of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties on copyright and on performances and phonorecords.

The WIPO treaties and the DMCA will protect the property rights of Americans in their work as they move in the global, digital marketplace, and, by doing so, continue to encourage the creation of new works to inspire and delight us and to improve the quality of our lives.

In addition to securing copyright in the global, digital environment, the DMCA also clarifies the liability of on-line and Internet service providers--OSPs and ISPs--for copyright infringement liability. The OSPs and ISPs needed more certainty in this area in order to attract the substantial investments necessary to continue the expansion and upgrading of the Internet.

The final component of the DMCA is the Vessel Hull Design Protection, Act (VHDPA). This legislation was not part of the Senate-passed version of the DMCA; rather, it was accepted by the Senate conferees in deference to the House of Representatives. Although I support the idea of industrial design protection as a legal regime outside of patent law, I appreciate how controversial it is, and I think that the Senate should act circumspectly. Furthermore, I am concerned that this bill is not like traditional industrial design protection in that the VHDPA protects the functionality of vessel hulls, not only its aesthetic aspects.

But because the VHDPA is limited only to boat hulls, I felt that I could acquiesce in including it in the conference report as a limited experiment in design protection. In order to make it truly experimental, I suggested, and the conferees adopted, modifications that `sunset' the bill two years after enactment and that require two studies of its effect. Therefore, in the future, we will be able to re-evaluate the Act, and we will have the benefit of two studies--both of them conducted jointly by the Register of Copyrights and the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks--to help us make the right decision.

[Page: S11890]

Mr. LEAHY addressed the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Hagel). The Senator from Vermont.

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, America's founders recognized and valued the creativity of this nation's citizens to such an extent that intellectual property rights are rooted in the Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution states that

The Congress shall have power . . . [t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

The Continental Congress proclaimed,

Nothing is more properly a man's own than the fruit of his study.'

Protecting intellectual property rights is just as important today as it was when America was a fledgling nation.

It is for this reason I am pleased that the Senate has today passed the Conference Report on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), H.R. 2281.

Title V, the `Vessel Hull Design Protection Act,' creates a new form of sui generis intellectual property protection for vessel hull designs. By adoption of this title, however, the Conferees wisely took no position on the advisability or propriety of adopting broader design protection for other useful articles. Indeed, when broad industrial design legislation was considered by the Congress in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a number of legitimate concerns were raised about the effects such legislation would have, particularly on the cost of auto repairs. Establishing narrow protection for vessel hulls in the conference report should not be interpreted as signaling support, or setting a precedent, for broader design protection that could negatively affect the ability of consumers to obtain economical, quality auto repairs.






This page was last updated on January 2, 1999.