Induce Act promises sweeping change

WASHINGTON — With time running out on Congress’ 2004 legislative calendar, technology companies and public-interest groups are desperately fighting any motion on the sweeping antipiracy bill known as the Induce Act.

More than 40 companies and orgs on Friday sent a letter to every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), expressing concerns that the latest version of the bill, which they argue is overly broad, could see committee action as early as Tuesday.

Calls to the Senate Judiciary Committee were not returned.

The Induce Act would usher in the most sweeping changes to current copyright law since the U.S. Supreme Court blessed the VCR in 1984.

Pushed by the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the Motion Picture Assn. of America, bill would make it a crime for peer-to-peer companies to make CDs or DVDs available without permission from the copyright holder.

But opponents argue the impact of the latest version of the bill, offered by the U.S. Copyright Office more than a week ago, is far broader; that it single-handedly nixes the fair-use rights in Supreme Court’s 1984 Betamax decision; and that it has the potential to snare unwitting tech companies in its legal dragnet.

Companies and institutions, they wrote, could be found liable for copyright infringement “without regard to their knowledge, intent or relationship to the infringer, simply for providing a produce, service and facility or financing.”

Those signing the letter include: the American Library Assn., BellSouth, Consumer Electronics Assn., Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google, Intel, MCI, Public Knowledge, Verizon and Yahoo!.

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