Major telcos and device makers go after Induce Act

Enter the Do Not Induce Act

A coalition of technology heavyweights, including SBC, MCI and Verizon, have taken a stand against the controversial Induce Act, offering up an alternative to the proposed legislation that would allow consumers and vendors to enjoy the culture they love in a more protected fashion.

A number of organizations today presented a draft of the Do Not Induce act to the co-sponsors of the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004 or Induce Act. While it may seem like a tit-for-tat move, the Do Not Induce backers are responding to an earlier call for "alternative language" in the act made by the co-sponsors. The revised language drastically narrows the scope of what would be considered a copyright infringement violation and "provides complete exemptions from liability" for ISPs, venture capitalists, credit card companies and other groups.

Those backing the Do Not Induce Act include MCI, SBC, Verizon, the American Association of Law Libraries, the US Internet Industry Association, the Consumer Electronics Assocation and the US Telecomm Association, among others. They sent their proposal to senators Bill Frist, Orrin Hatch, Tom Daschle and Pat Leahy.

Senator Hatch has been the most vocal backer of the Induce Act. The proposed legislation creates a very broad definition of what would be considering a threat to copyrights. Apple's iPod, for example, would likely be considering in violation of the act if it was found to "induce" consumers into violating musicians' copyrights simply by placing their songs on the device.

The Do Not Induce Act, by contrast, would only have the courts go after targets that violated copyrights on a massive scale and continued to do so after being asked to stop. Service providers or credit card companies, for example, that may be indirectly involved with the copyright infringer would not be held liable for their fringe roles.

"In your letter to the Register of Copyrights, you expressed interest in a "technology-neutral law directed at a small set of bad actors while protecting our legitimate technology industries from frivolous litigation,'" the Do Not Induct backers wrote to the senators. "We have developed such an alternative that would address mass, indiscriminate infringing conduct while preserving the Supreme Court’s Betamax decision, the Magna Carta of the technology industry which is in no small measure responsible for our nation’s preeminence in technological innovation and entrepreneurship. We believe that the enclosed draft meets these goals and serves as the best platform for the discussion of the interests of all concerned parties."

Just last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco also pointed to the Betamax decision in its defense of decentralized P2P networks. The court argued that, like the Betamax, P2P software can be used for numerous noninfringing purposes and deserves a place in the market. Technology that first appears to hurt a market often turns out to open new doors to both established and fresh players, the court said, warning against legislation such as the Induce Act.

Funny enough, Senator Hatch once shared many of these same "give the little man a chance" beliefs - most notably in his pursuit of Microsoft, which was seen as stifling competition by its dominance. In the late 2001, Hatch even turned on the music labels for being slow to put up content online and urged them to work with the Napster music service in court testimony.

"I think working together in the marketplace cooperatively will lead to the best result for all parties, the record labels, the online music services, the artists and the music fans," Hatch said at the time. "I hope the focus will be on the latter two. After all, without artists, there is nothing to convey, and without the fans, there is no one to convey it to. I think keeping the focus on the artists and the audience can help the technologists and the copyright industries find a way for all to flourish. And I hope this opportunity is taken before it is lost."

And later Hatch backed up the idea of technology pushing innovation in the music scene.

"Online systems provide a cheaper and easier method of self-publishing," he is quoted as saying in Joe Menn's All the Rave.

So what made Hatch turn against the technology crowd?

Well, in 2001, the RIAA managed to convince Natalie Grant to belt out one of his self-penned religious tunes called "I Am Not Alone." A short while later Hatch moved to the music labels' side. (Hatch has since gone on to sell tens of thousands of dollars worth of his songs every year.)

If someone could find a librarian with an amazing voice to charm Hatch back to the technologists side, the Do Not Induce Act might stand a chance. ®

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