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Washington politicians would make a grave mistake in crafting new copy-protection laws based on Internet patterns today, an influential Stanford law professor warned. The professor, Lawrence Lessig, pointed out Wednesday that millions of consumers are downloading music and other materials onto their computers because slow dial-up connections make it tough to stream content quickly to a variety of devices. That’s bound to change within a few years as connections get faster, he said, making today’s debate irrelevant. “In the future, it will be easier to pay for subscription services than to be an amateur database administrator who moves content from device to device,” Lessig said. “We’re legislating against a background of the Internet’s current architecture of content distribution, and this is a fundamental mistake.” At a heated Digital Rights Summit at Intel Corp.’s Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters, Lessig joined entrepreneurs and other academics in warning that Hollywood’s copy-protection demands could strike a lethal blow to the U.S. technology industry. Punctuated by hisses, applause and shouts of “Amen!” from members of the 100-person crowd, the four-hour debate illustrated the gargantuan gap between Silicon Valley and Hollywood when it comes to so-called digital rights management. California entrepreneurs say Hollywood’s insistence on embedding anti-copying technology in devices would crimp product innovation in the flagging technology sector. Executives at startups say they have lost manufacturing contracts and venture capital funding because of the mere threat of litigation from the entertainment industry. The lone Hollywood defender in the four-hour conference blasted technophiles’ allegations as “overblown and simplistic.” Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said Silicon Valley’s complaints were little more than trivial self-pity. Berman, who said he felt “like France at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council,” is the author of legislation that would give the entertainment industry broad new powers — including deliberately interfering with file-sharing programs — to try to stop online piracy. He said digital rights has become a smoke screen for discussing financial excess of Silicon Valley in the late 1990s and the realities of the industry’s slump. “Let’s have some perspective,” he said. “This issue is not as bad as 45 million people living without health insurance.” Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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