A digital-copyright bill introduced last month has inspired howls of protest from consumers and high-tech firms who say it could slow technological advances and dictate how consumers listen to music or watch videos at home.
Well-connected lobbyists and everyday users alike have flooded Congress with faxes and e-mails over the last several weeks to lodge complaints against a bill that would prevent new computers, CD players and other consumer-electronics devices from playing unauthorized movies, music and other digital media files.
Sen. Ernest Hollings' bill is backed by media firms such as The Walt Disney Co. , who fear fast Internet connections and an array of digital devices such as MP3 players and CD burners will encourage consumers to seek free copies of hit singles and new movies.
The South Carolina Democrat has said he introduced the bill to encourage media and technology firms to work together to stop digital piracy.
Instead, it has inspired a flurry of criticism.
A grass-roots group called DigitalConsumer.org, which did not exist a month ago, claims to have signed up 24,000 members, who have sent off 80,000 faxes to their elected representatives.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which has also held hearings on the issue, has received more than 3,500 comments criticizing the bill, a spokeswoman said.
"We haven't received one e-mail in support of the Hollings bill," said Judiciary Committee spokeswoman Mimi Devlin. "It seems like there's a groundswell of support from regular users."
High-tech lobbying groups have weighed in as well, arguing that mandatory copyright-protection technologies would hurt their ability to innovate, and would encourage consumers to hold on to their older computers rather than buy new models that restricted their activities.