"We went way overboard," he said. "It needs to be corrected."
The law has already led to a federal judge blocking DVD-copying software developed and sold by 321 Studios Inc. of St. Charles, Mo.
"In three years we created almost 400 jobs and were on track to achieve $100 million in sales," 321 Studios chief executive Robert Moore said in prepared testimony for the committee. "Today, I appear for my family and the fewer than 60 remaining employees of a company on the brink of annihilation."
Proponents of changing the law argue that efforts to stop illegal copying should focus on the conduct of pirates, not the underlying technology that provides law-abiding users with rights and benefits.
"It's just like a fork," said Gary J. Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, many of whose members make products that allow digital copying, mixing and editing. "You can eat with it, and you can use it to kill someone." Banning the fork, he said, makes no sense.
Other witnesses said that the ban on copying is making it harder for libraries and other educational institutions to make selected use of digital works for long-distance learning.
Cary H. Sherman, president of the Recording Industry of America, said that the DMCA simply outlawed hacking tools.
But Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the DMCA was too restrictive.
"After I buy a CD or a movie, it is mine once I leave the store," he said, as long as he does not break copyright law by selling copies.
Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.) asked movie industry representatives whether the DMCA would prevent a tool that would allow him to edit out scenes containing "smut" that he does not want his children to see.
An MPAA lawyer said it would, but that technology could allow him to fast-forward past those scenes.
"But first I'd have to see it," Shimkus replied.
Former representative Al Swift, a Washington state Democrat, said he is a former disc jockey and a music lover who enjoys taking individual songs from CDs and making compilations that he gives to friends.
Swift said the law treats most U.S. consumers as pirates, which they are not.
"The American consumer is no threat to these industries," Swift said. "I own 3,000 CDs at an average price of . . . $13 each. I am, like other American consumers, a profit center for these businesses. It is about time they treated us with a little respect."
To date, there is no companion bill in the Senate.