Editor's Note: Rep. Tauzin and Rep. Sensenbrenner met stakeholders in the debate over database protection legislation in the main hearing room of the House Commerce Committee at 4:00 PM on Thursday, March 29. The two then held a joint meeting with reporters.
Question: Can you tell us what the purpose of the meeting was?
Tauzin: Very simply, it was, first of all, to follow through on our public announcement today, that our two committees plan to work collectively to produce a database protection bill, and to follow through by inviting all of the stakeholders, those who want to come and participate with us in open negotiations on how we might both approach the problem, and how we might find solutions to it -- thorny issues of how you provide protection here, without unnecessarily impeding the flow of information.
Sensenbrenner: And, let me say that in the past, the two committees have taken decidedly different approaches to the database protection issue, and as a result, nothing has become law. Both Chairman Tauzin and I are committed to getting a database protection bill the President will sign passed by the Congress this year. And, the purpose for these negotiations is, number one, to attempt to reach compromises and agreements, not any issues in disagreement, and failing that, narrowing the issues down to as few as possible, which the two committees will end up having to resolve.
Tauzin: I might add one more thing. A part of the problem in the last Congress is the fact that Judiciary used its traditional perspectives of copyright law in approaching the problem. Commerce, now Energy and Commerce, used its traditional communications law perspective as we approach the problem, which inevitably lead to bills that couldn't jive. But, the idea here is for us to find a common approach, so that we don't end up with two committees producing bills that cannot be married together, and compromise one another in the end. And by starting out together, we hope to finish up together.
Sensenbrenner: And, this is a classic example of where technology and law collide. And, what our job here, is to try to figure out how to meld technology and law, so that there will be protection for creativity, but in a way that does not impede the free flow of information. Now, you know, that is a nice buzz word, and so far this has been easier said than done. But, we are going to make the best attempt that has ever been made to do it.
Question: Procedurally, how do you go forward? Do you try to move this through one committee, and then the other? Are you going to try to do this all simultaneously ..."
Tauzin: Well, assuming that we are working together on a common package, those questions almost answer themselves. We can move simultaneously. We can move sequentially. It doesn't really matter, so long as the bill reflects our to jurisdictional perspectives on this. And it will. And as long as we both respect one another, as we do, in our committee work, and in our jurisdictional work.
Question: Will legislation ultimately cover stock market data? And would that give jurisdiction to another committtee?
Tauzin: I can't speak to that yet. I can only tell you that we are basically going to find out where the points of agreement are. If the bill should reach into some areas where another committee would be involved, we would certainly invite that committee's participation.
Sensenbrenner: All I can say is that question is premature. We don't know yet. Yeah. And if it does reach into another committee's jurisdiction, you know, we will bring their staff in to deal with it, as the negotiations go on.
Tauzin: This is not the first time this kind of a process works. I mean, we, the Firestone, the Highway Safety Bill, which passed last year was an example of that, where the Judiciary Committee staff actually participated with the Commerce Committee staff in the drafting of the language on criminal sanctions, which was truly a Judiciary Committee area of jurisprudence and expertise. The result was that by the time that the bill was completed, Chairman Hyde then actually waived -- we recognized his jurisdiction -- he waived sequential -- the bill was able to move more expeditiously than before. That is the sort of model we are trying to construct here, so that we can this done. Not only get it done, so that it can pass, but get it done in a way that our two committees, again, will be more respectful of one another, and work more cooperatively.
Question: Obviously, there are a lot of issues that cut across both your committees. Is this trying to set a precedent for how you guys are going to work together on a variety of issues?
Sensenbrenner: If it works, we hope so. And if it doesn't, we hope not.
Tauzin: We think that it will work.
Sensenbrenner: We are going to do our level best to make it work.
Tauzin: I mentioned to the group in there, there are even bigger thornier ahead, as we go to, you know, the issues of video protection in a digital age, and so, this could well be a model for us, and some sort of pathway for us to work collaboratively on these thornier issues, and, we ought to look at it.
Question: It is still early, obviously, to get any ETA. Do you have any idea of when you might be able to see something ...
Sensenbrenner: Well, I want to make sure that these negotiations proceed apace. I am not going to look kindly at anybody who tries to slow it down because we are not making their point. There are obviously are going to have to be compromises reached, and nobody who is sitting in that room is going to get 100% of what they want, and I think that is a given.
Tauzin: And there may be folks, at the end of this process who want to oppose it. That may be the case, as part of this process as well. Our goal, obviously, is to try to try bring as many of the stakeholders around to compromise as possible. And, I agree with Jim. I don't have any timetable in my head, except that I -- we are asking everybody to press forward.
Question: But you do want this this session?