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[FYI] U.S.: Senate Passes High-Tech Bills


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Senate Passes High-Tech Bills

Satellite TV, Patent Laws, 'Cybersquatting' Are Addressed  

                  By John Schwartz
                  Washington Post Staff Writer
                  Saturday, November 20, 1999; Page E01 

A passel of high-technology bills that flew through the Senate at 
Internet speed yesterday will give satellite-television viewers 
access to local channels, revamp the U.S. patent system and shut down 


Another piece of legislation rolled into the spending bill is 
intended to limit "cybersquatting," the practice of poaching popular 
trademark names for Web sites (and names that sound like those 
trademarked names) in order to sell them to the rightful owners. Sen. 
Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) has called cybersquatting "online 
extortion," and said his bill will protect consumers.  

That bill, too, has its detractors. Shari Steele of the Electronic 
Frontier Foundation, a high-tech civil liberties group, said that 
since an international organization, the Internet Corporation for 
Assigned Names and Numbers, was formed with the help of the U.S. 
Commerce Department to resolve such disputes globally, "I don't think 
the Senate should be acting on this at all."  

Steele said that the bill gives "way too much power to trademark 
owners to the detriment of people who have legal rights to have these 
domains--and there are real free speech implications of that."  

The Senate passed a second Abraham-sponsored bill on electronic 
commerce intended to give electronic contracts and documents the same 
legal standing as documents signed using pen and ink. Since a 
different version of that bill has passed the House, the two laws 
will have to be reconciled in conference committee next year.  

The Senate passed another bill to ban Internet gambling. Sponsored by 
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the bill makes exceptions for state-run 
lotteries and fantasy sports leagues. The matter will also have to be 
taken up when  Congress returns after the holidays.  

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