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Hatch's Induce Act comes under fire

Congressman Boucher weighs in, guns blazing

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US Congressman Rick Boucher took up arms against the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act bill, being brought before Congress right now, in a website interview at Inside Digital Media this week.

In answer to questions put by IDM's Phil Leigh, Boucher made it clear that he would fight tooth and claw to prevent the new bill from making it into law in its current form. Boucher himself is supporting and presenting a bill that calls for changes to be made to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which he feels is misguided in by making the bypassing of copy protection illegal in its own right.

Some quotes here taken from the interview give some comfort. "I will work against this act. It is very poorly defined and it could target just about anyone. Even a university giving its students broadband access, could, under the current wording, be construed as inducing a copyright breach.

"Anyone making ANY kind of recording device, even an innocent recorder that has many other fair uses, could be in breach of this law just for making that technology available. Frankly there is no need for the statute at all."

The bill has been introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch, and has the backing of the leaders of both sides of the house according to Boucher, including Bill Frist, the US senator for Tennessee, the majority leader.

"Neither of the leaders are on a judiciary committee or the commerce committee and although I'm not suggesting that their support is inappropriate, this bill will have to go through the Judiciary committee and I sit on that. I will certainly be collecting examples of potential cases that can be brought under this bill and weeding out potential misuses," promised Boucher.

Boucher is not the only voice to suggest that the Apple iPod might be a target for this bill, instead of the file sharing peer to peer networks that it was supposed to see off. The original advertising campaign of the iPod was "Rip, burn, listen" and it could be attacked as copyright inducing.

MP3 players and DVD recorders could come in for the same treatment say some, including legal brains that support the Personal Freedom Coalition.

Boucher points out that the bill is designed to overturn a decision in the Californian court that said that Grokster was not responsible for contributory infringement because its technology has substantial other, non-infringing uses other than just breaching copyright. If the bill becomes law it would threaten the Supreme Court decision from 20 years ago that Sony, when it introduced the betamax video player, was in the same way, non-infringing, as the court saw that time shifting was not an infringement of copyright.

"The Sony decision has stood the test of time," said Boucher and called on US citizens to write their condemnation of the bill to their member of congress.

© Copyright 2004 Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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