US President Bill Clinton has signed into law a bill designed to protect software, movies, music and other copyrighted material from the increased threat of piracy posed by advances in digital technology.
Called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, the bill is based on treaties drafted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in December 1996, and was approved by the US Senate earlier this month.
Proponents say the bill is necessary because advancing digital technologies have made it possible to pirate copyrighted works on a global scale with great ease. The bill strikes a balance between the rights of copyright owners and users, the president said in a statement.
The bill has not been without its critics, however, who charge that it oversteps the requirements of the WIPO treaties. In particular, critics say the bill gives copyright holders too much control over their material, and steps over current "fair use" rights that allow the public to copy and distribute protected materials for educational and other purposes.
Clintonalso signed into law the "Next Generation Internet Act of 1998." The bill gives the go ahead for several national agencies to work with businesses and educators to develop a high speed network that will operate as much as 1000 times faster than today's Internet.
The network will make possible a range of new technologies, including "tele-surgery" and other medical services which require very high levels of reliability and security, the president said in a statement.
The bill also authorises the development of an advanced "testbed" network linking key federal and university research centers, allowing research teams to develop new Internet technologies, the statement said.
The White House is on the Internet at http://www.whitehouse.gov/.