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Gateway croons for copying tunes

CEO Ted Waitt and his bovine companion sing out in support of digital music as Congress mulls over a bill requiring anti-piracy software in devices.

PC manufacturer Gateway on Wednesday launched a campaign to support the popular consumption of digital music as Congress contemplates legislation that would put the onus on the tech industry to battle piracy.

The campaign comes in the face of a bill proposed in Washington, D.C., by Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., which has caused a stir among technology companies. One element of the bill would require computer manufacturers and consumer electronics companies to install anti-piracy software in their digital devices.

Gateway considers the language of the bill a threat to CD-burner shipments, which could be outlawed if the bill passes, according to Gateway spokesman Brad Williams. A ban on the sale of CD burners, which allow people to copy digitized information such as music files onto a blank disc, could hobble CD sales and in turn hurt PC sales.

"It's one of top five reasons why people buy PCs today," Williams said.

The cornerstone of Gateway's campaign is a 60-second TV ad that will begin airing Wednesday evening. The spot, a continuation of the company's campaign, features CEO Ted Waitt and a bovine companion driving into the sunset singing a cover version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" by hip-hop artist Elwood.

As Waitt and the cow trade verses, messages appear on the screen that read, "Like this song? Download it for free on load it on an MP3 player. Gateway supports your right to enjoy digital music legally."

Beyond the ad, the company this weekend plans to offer free demonstrations on how to legally download songs and burn them onto CDs throughout its Gateway Country retail stores.

Williams said that the company is not advocating piracy, but is putting heat on the government to find a balance between consumer demand and copyright protection.

"We'd rather see a market-driven solution that comes out of technology and content companies working together," he said.