CONGRESSMAN, A NAPSTER FOE, FINDS RECORD CO. TIES HAVE FLIP SIDE
by Philip E. Daoust
American Reporter Correspondent
San Francisco, Calif.
WASHINGTON -- With so much attention on the floundering economy and terrorism at home, who'd guess that the contentious issue of Internet file-sharing would shake up the otherwise conservative politicking of North Carolina's 6th Congressional District.
Having run for re-election four times prior without so much as a Democratic challenger, long-time Republican Representative Howard Coble seemed untouchable.
But then introduce a heated debate over the right of people to share music files over the Internet and things take a turn.
That is exactly what compelled real estate agent and Libertarian candidate Tara Sue Grubb, 26, to run against Rep. Coble in this fall's Congressional elections.
Grubb's unlikely entry into the race has made the debate over swapping media files, like MP3s, a central campaign issue in a state that usually worries more about pig waste disposal than electronic copyright.
Grubb said she decided to enter the race to challenge the 71-year-old incumbent Congressman after he signed on in support of a bill introduced in Congress by Representative Howard Berman, D-CA.
Berman has drafted legislation that would grant record companies new and broad powers to disable files on computer networks hosting copyright music, DVD and software files for download. He recently indicated he would not seek passage of the bill this year.
Coble, who has been in Congress for 18 years, is currently the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. The panel regularly oversees debates on issues ranging from Internet domain name policies to the terms of rock musicians' recording contracts.
In September 2000, the House passed a "works for hire" legislation sponsored by Coble. The bill included an amendment to the Copyright Act adding sound recordings to the list of copyrighted works made for hire. The legislation was strongly backed by music industry lobbyists.
Coble's campaign contribution disclosures for the current Congressional race reveal three of his top six contributors are tied to the recording industry. To date, the Recording Industry Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters and The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers have all contributed at least $5,000 to Coble's campaign this year.
In total, the industry has given $34,483 to Coble's campaign for the 2001-2002 election cycle, second only to funds raised from lawyers and law firms, at $37,515. Since 1996, the entertainment industry has contributed more than $140,000 to Coble's reelection campaigns.
While no one expects Grubbs to unseat the popular senior Congressman from a mostly Republican district (redistricting in 2000 removed many Democratic areas from Coble's 6th Congressional District), her campaign has ignited the debate over file-sharing and heightened concerns over invasions of privacy and illegal searches and seizures via the Internet.
For updates, readers can access Grubb's Weblog at http://radio.Weblogs.com/0112137/
Congressman Coble's official Congressional Web site is http://www.house.gov/coble/