July 21, 2004 6:25 PM PDT

Antipiracy bill gains new ally

In a move that's alarming technology firms, the U.S. Copyright Office is about to endorse new legislation that would outlaw peer-to-peer networks and possibly some consumer electronics devices that could be used for copyright piracy.

Marybeth Peters, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, is planning to announce her support for the measure at a Senate hearing on Thursday. The Induce Act, which critics warn could imperil products like Apple Computer's iPod, is an "important improvement over existing law," according to a copy of her statement seen by CNET News.com.

Peters goes even further than the politicians supporting the Induce Act, saying a 1984 Supreme Court decision "should be replaced by a more flexible rule that is more meaningful in the technological age." That 5-4 ruling said that VCRs were legal to sell because they were "capable of substantial noninfringing uses"--a legal shield that one federal court has extended to cover the Grokster and Morpheus file-swapping networks.

The endorsement of the nonpartisan Copyright Office complicates what is shaping up to be yet another high-stakes tussle over copyright between hardware firms and e-commerce companies, which worry about legal liability if their products are used for copyright violations, and large copyright holders who fret about rampant copying on peer-to-peer networks. The Induce Act says "whoever intentionally induces any violation" of copyright law would be legally liable for those violations.

In an opinion article for the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, Les Vadasz, who retired last year as an Intel executive vice president, denounced the Induce Act as having a wealth of undesirable side effects. "The chilling effect that a law like this would have on innovation cannot be underestimated," Vadasz said.

More than 40 trade associations and advocacy groups voiced similar sentiments in a letter to senators on July 6. The Induce Act "would chill innovation and drive investment in technology" overseas, said the letter signed by CNET Networks, eBay, Google, Intel, MCI, TiVo, Verizon, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo. (CNET Networks publishes News.com.)

On the other side are the music industry groups that have become Silicon Valley's typical political adversaries on copyright laws--with one exception.

The Business Software Alliance, a group that includes Adobe and Autodesk as members and is closely affiliated with Microsoft, has applauded the Induce Act. BSA said in a statement that it is a "reasonable balance between antipiracy and technological innovation."

On Wednesday, entertainers joined BSA in welcoming the Induce Act. "We urge the committee to pass this crucial legislation as quickly as possible," said a statement from groups including the American Federation of Musicians, the National Music Publishers' Association, the Nashville Songwriters Association, and the Songwriters Guild of America.

A lawyer for the Copyright Office on Wednesday defended the Induce Act as making modest changes to current law to target peer-to-peer providers, not legitimate hardware or software products. Peters' testimony says the Copyright Office would be pleased to work with the Senate on "additional clarifying language" to ensure that concerns from technology firms are adddressed.

Alarm over "inducing"
NetCoalition, which represents e-commerce firms and Internet publishers, said it was alarmed by the Copyright Office's call to revisit the 1984 "Betamax" VCR decision.

"We would vigorously disagree that Congress ought to reconsider the Betamax decision," said Markham Erickson, NetCoalition's director of federal policy. "We're troubled by the Copyright Office's suggestion that it's no longer applicable in the digital era. In fact, we would suggest that the Betamax decision is one of the reasons why we had the explosion of the Internet, instant messaging and Web browsing products. The Betamax decision helped to foster this era of great products."

Fred von Lohmann, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, said it's no real surprise that the Copyright Office is eager to see the Induce Act enacted.

"The Copyright Office tends to view copyright law through the narrow lens of what does it mean for copyright owners," he said. "The Copyright Office has not traditionally and certainly not recently viewed as one of its core missions asking, 'How has copyright law affected other areas, such as technology policy and innovation?'" EFF has prepared a fake lawsuit that shows how Apple, Toshiba and CNET Networks could be sued for products and reviews that allegedly "induce" people to violate copyright law.

The Induce Act's supporters include Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

9 comments

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Contact your Senator/ Representative
Here's what I wrote, mostly ripped from the suggestion of another cnet poster. Feel free to use it:

I'm a registered voter working for a high tech company, High Connection Density, in Silicon Valley. We're working hard to make keep our position as world leaders in technology, but your support for the Induce Act will stifle innovation. Please withdraw your support for this bill immediately!

A new bill is being introduced called the "Induce Act" by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) possibly this or next week. This bill is attempting to stifle technologies at startups like ours by helping established corporations to squelch instead of embracing new technology. Don't get me wrong, I am a capitalist at heart but I do not believe my financial well being comes at the expense of innovation.

Please read this article about the bill if you have not yet heard about it.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/Antipiracy+bill+targets+technology/2100-1028_3-5238140.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/Antipiracy+bill+targets+technology/2100-1028_3-5238140.html</a>

Here is a quote taken from the article on the dangers this act poses.
"Litman said that under the Induce Act, products like ReplayTV, peer-to-peer networks and even the humble VCR could be outlawed because they can potentially be used to infringe copyrights."

Please protect our freedom to innovate and withdraw your support.

-Luke
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Couldn't agree more!
I'm glad there are others who feel this is not something we want to see passed!
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Here's how to make a difference
go to:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://action.eff.org/action/index.asp?step=2&#38;item=2918" target="_newWindow">http://action.eff.org/action/index.asp?step=2&#38;item=2918</a>

and fill out the information on the forms.

There's more info on other damaging bill at:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://action.eff.org" target="_newWindow">http://action.eff.org</a>

Make sure you are registered to vote and don't support Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Unless they withdraw their support.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
U.S.G. grabbing more rights
This piece of legislation is just another example of the U.S. Government grabbing more rights from the population. At the rate the current administration is going, we will all be subjects in King George the II's little playground and if you don't like it you can just go to jail! Voters in the constituency of the supporters of this legislation need to voice their concerns to their representatives! Speak up now or become a subject, rather than a citizen.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So this means...
It seems like this law would apply to xerox machines, cameras, tape recorders.... anything that could make a copy of anything that might be copyrighted.
Posted by Jimmu411 (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not surprising at all
I agree with the EFF official. This news is disappointing, but by no means surprising. It IS the copyright office, after all.
Posted by LANjackal (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apply this logic to gun control
If this logic succeeds, perhaps we could apply it to manufacturers of firearms. By making products that "induce" people to kill others, perhaps they could be held liable for the damage.
Posted by (1 comment )
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Too Broad
The software companies with BSA apparently haven't thought this through. Their software (mainly Adobe) can also "induce" people to violate copyrights by copying images, which are also intellectual property. Also, the entertainment business would be crippled by this law. They make music and other entertainment venues, charge exorbitant prices for them, which then INDUCES people to get these forms of entertainment from other sources, which unfortunately, are often illegal.
This law is too broad and will hurt too many people/organizations.
Posted by kashk5 (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
outlaw peer-to-peer networks -- No
To me, if file swapping is an issue - then the internet has to go.... it is the biggest file swapping around......
Posted by (1 comment )
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