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Congresswoman: Let ISPs probe for pirates

Rep. Mary Bono Mack says Congress shouldn't get in the way of Internet service providers that want to detect illegal sharing of copyrighted material.

WASHINGTON--Congress must not interfere with Internet service providers that are trying to filter pirated content from their networks, a Republican politician said Wednesday.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack U.S. House of Representatives

The recommendation from Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) came in a steadfastly pro-copyright speech at an Internet policy conference here, during which she railed against what she described as rampant online piracy.

"I believe the best chance we have for achieving any success against digital piracy is to allow those entities and individuals who manage networks to have the flexibility and agility to take necessary and lawful steps to stop piracy online before it starts," said the widow of singer Sonny Bono, who recently took on the new last name when she married fellow Republican congressman Connie Mack of Florida. "The battle against digital piracy is a very fluid exercise. Network operators and digital-property owners should be free to experiment with and develop antipiracy technologies."

The congresswoman, who joked earlier in her speech that the Internet has revolutionized the way she shops, acknowledged that such a policy may not be popular among some "interest groups." But she suggested that if Congress stays out of the way and lets ISPs take steps to curb piracy, it might help copyright holders "recoup immense financial losses that piracy causes."

She did not suggest, however, that Congress should require Internet service providers to filter their networks, as Paul McGuinness, manager of the rock band U2, seemed to be saying in a speech earlier this week.

She also endorsed a bill pending in Congress, known as the PRO IP Act, which would significantly increase penalties for copyright infringers.

Bono Mack's comments arrived amid news that AT&T is testing technology designed to identify and police copyrighted material on its pipes. Federal regulators are also accepting comments on whether ISPs should be allowed to block or restrict peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic in the interest of "reasonable network management."

Bono Mack never addressed the idea that filtering technologies have been shown to be overinclusive or underinclusive, or that deep packet inspection by ISPs potentially raises privacy concerns.

She also never discussed the idea of fair use in her speech--that is, the idea that copyrighted material can be copied for education and research purposes. And when prodded by an audience member about her thoughts on the subject, she replied, "I believe the debate on fair use is still out there" before moving on to other topics. Contrary to "Internet myths," she added, she does not support "eternal copyright."