Hollywood studios planning to sell online movie downloads got good news last week in a report by the US Copyright Office on the 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act

The report, requested by Congress to assess the effects of the Act, saw no need to extend the so-called 'first-sale doctrine' to cover copyrighted works online as well as in the analogue world.

In the analogue realm, the doctrine allows video retailers and libraries to rent cassettes and DVDs they have bought legally without obtaining additional authorisation from the copyright owner. Extending the doctrine into the online world would potentially allow video retailers to launch their own movie download operations in competition with those being planned by the studios, like the service recently announced by Sony, MGM, Paramount, Universal and Warner.

The report said that extending the doctrine would probably "encourage infringement of the reproduction right." Studio trade body the Motion Picture Association of America said the report had reached "the proper conclusion" regarding the first-sale doctrine. The Copyright Office report did, however, recommend that Congress should pass legislation giving consumers the right to make back-up copies of copyrighted material.

The MPAA is reportedly lobbying against the proposed back-up legislation.