Re: Orrin’s “Induce Act”: iPods Don’t Share Music, People Do
The grasping and clumsy “Induce Act,” aka the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004 co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah, left) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), targets peer-to-peer filesharing networks like Kazaa and eDonkey to the benefit of the music and movie industries. As proposed, the Induce Act would make anyone who creates a product or service that induces a violation of copyright law legally responsible along with the actual copyright violator. If you build a machine that can copy music or movies or TV shows or videogames, you’re guilty. And you are liable for $30,000 per copy.
The Supreme Court addressed this issue in the landmark 1984 Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios decision. It held that, while a VCR could be used to violate copyright, Sony wasn’t itself violating copyrights and the machines had “substantial non-infinging uses,” so the devices and their manufacturer were clear. A generation of important information technology inventions flowed from that decision, and now Senators Hatch and Leahy want to choke off any further digital development just because it hurts their friends at the media conglomerates.
Check out this paragraph from this summer’s Wired News story Techies Blast Induce Act:
Between 1999 and 2004, Hatch has received $159,860 in campaign donations from the TV, movie and music industries, according to opensecrets.org, which monitors campaign donations. In the same period, Leahy received $220,450. They each received less money from the Internet, computer and telecommunications industries.
Using the opensecrets.org numbers, I make it a competitive $184,210 for Hatch and a measly $55,950 for Leahy from the computers, Internet and telecom sectors. Somebody may have to start writing checks to put an end to this quackery.
Hatch is moving ahead with his very bad policy, but many people are up in arms:
- The American Conservative Union is running ads.
- The indispensable Electronic Frontier Foundation is filing briefs and getting citizens involved. (See their Mock Complaint that illustrates how everybody will be sued by the music and movie suits if this thing gets signed.)
- The music sharing activists at Downhill Battle have set up a SaveBetamax site for grassroots action.
- Dozens of associations, educators and technology firms are calling for public hearings.
- TechLawAdvisor has started a blog with the latest news and links.
On balance, the Information Age has been a good thing. We all benefit from the creation of new, better, cheaper and faster ways of creating and sharing ideas. Nobody defends the theft of intellectual property, but it’s not the government’s job to insulate a handful of sappy conglomerates from digital technology’s invisible hand.
(For a good rant on this topic, see Eliot van Buskirk’s ZDNet piece: Why Orrin Hatch’s INDUCE Act is insane.)