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Hatch lists data challenges

Agenda includes privacy protection, copyright reform

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Information technology and the people who make it happen are "the engine that drives so much of the economy."

But the increasingly rapid innovation also creates challenges of how to educate politicians, who are sometimes "roadkill on the Information Highway" as they wrestle with shaping national policy.

That's according to Utah's Republican senior senator, Orrin Hatch, who on Wednesday outlined nine things he "hopes the future will hold" during the annual members meeting breakfast of the Utah Information Technologies Association.

Hatch's legislative agenda includes everything from boosting Internet privacy protection to patent and copyright law reform.

He wants to look at First Amendment protection of Internet content, the intellectual property and antitrust ramifications of trademarks and domain names, and access to broadband.

And that's just for starters, he said.

But tackling technology issues isn't easy, in part because so many of the nation's lawmakers don't really understand technology or the potential ramifications of either action or inaction on their part. The architect who designed Washington, D.C., L'Enfant, was "prophetic" when he laid it out in circles, the senator joked.

Hatch said copyright laws and fair use will have to be re-examined with both consumers and creators in mind, because the Internet has created a world where "some of the assumptions underpinning traditional copyright law may not be relevant."

Internet privacy protection must be assured to "enhance confidence in the Internet and allow e-commerce to reach its full potential," he said.

"More work on Internet lies ahead for (the Judiciary) committee," including a look at whether civil and criminal laws need to change and whether U.S. encryption policy "negatively affects growth of e-commerce."

The Internet offers incredible education-reform opportunities that could benefit everyone, but particularly people in remote areas and lifelong learners, Hatch said. How to support the Internet's powers for that purpose, however, must be decided.

The senator also expressed concern about the "potential vulnerability" of America's technological infrastructure, citing computer viruses and hacking as examples.

"The challenge for Congress is to keep pace with technology," he said, calling the group of lawmakers a "lumbering entity" that has to be careful not to interfere while it's trying to simplify and strengthen national policy.

E-mail: lois@desnews.com