White House delays e-report

The administration wants to coordinate its release with the hoped-for passage of two key elements of Clinton's e-commerce policy.

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The White House has delayed a progress report on its Internet commerce policies until September to coordinate its release with the hoped-for passage of two key elements of Clinton's e-commerce policy, a White House source said today.

The two bills the White House wants passed are the Internet Tax Freedom Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The latter would implement an international copyright treaty.

The report itself, ordered by the president last July when he unveiled the White House Framework on Global Electronic Commerce, is largely complete, the source said.

"We were hoping those two major pieces of legislation would be out of Congress by the end of July, but it looks like it won't be out until early September," the source said. The White House is planning a major e-commerce event with the president to include bill signings, release of the report, and other policy pronouncements.

In a related move today, Vice President Al Gore called for limited federal legislation to protect the privacy of children on the Internet. But the White House publicly continues to support private-sector self-regulation, not strict federal privacy laws.

The Framework on Global Electronic Commerce was released July 1, 1997, after months of discussion both within and outside the government. It urged private-sector leadership and industry self-regulation rather than legislation by foreign governments or states and cities within the United States.

The Internet Tax Freedom Act was a key and controversial recommendation, applauded by Internet and technology companies but opposed by state and local governments. In a compromise, legislation that has passed the House and is pending in the Senate imposes a short-term moratorium on special new taxes on Internet access and service. While the House version imposes a three-year moratorium, proposals in the Senate would halt taxes for two to six years.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, overwhelmingly passed by the Senate in May, would implement treaties signed by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1996. The WIPO treaty would expand copyright protections for music, film, text, and software on the Internet and would outlaw technologies that can crack copyright-protection devices.

By September, another key element of Clinton's e-commerce policy, created and now overseen by senior adviser Ira Magaziner, may also be in place--with a private-sector group, not a firm designated by the U.S. government, overseeing the assigning of Internet addresses or domain names.

On June 5, the Clinton administration released its final plan to overhaul the Internet's naming system, turning it over to a new, private nonprofit organization. Earlier this week, the European Union spoke favorably of the Clinton plan.