RealTime IT News

Senate Panel Delays Induce Act Vote Again

WASHINGTON -- For the third time in three weeks, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee decided to take no action on the controversial Induce Act aimed at illegal file swapping on peer-to-peer networks.

Written by Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and the committee's ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004 (S. 2560) would permit individuals or corporations to be held liable for infringing acts that "they intend to induce."

Critics of the legislation contend the Induce Act goes far beyond the intended P2P network targets to include consumer electronics manufacturers and Internet service providers (ISPs). Opponents claim the bill would allow content owners to sue makers of digital media players on the grounds that the players encourage copyright infringement. ISPs could possibly face litigation under the provisions of the bill for allowing P2P networks to operate on their systems.

The legislation has gone through four rewrites since Hatch introduced the bill in July and promised "to get something done" about the widespread copyright infringement on P2P networks. The bill was scheduled for a markup in Thursday's Judiciary Committee meeting.

"While I do not contemplate action on this bill at today's markup, negotiations will continue this afternoon to perfect language that will bring an end to the rampant abuse of copyrighted material, for example, by some file sharing programs," Hatch said. "At the same time, we must protect the rights of legitimate technology firms to develop faster and better products."

Hatch said he hoped to bring the bill up again at next week's judiciary markup, which will likely be the committee's last meeting before Congress adjourns for the national elections on Oct. 8.

"If I have to, I will lock up all of the key parties in a room until they come out with an acceptable bill that stops the bad actors and preserves technological innovation," Hatch said.

As currently drafted, the bill states, "Whoever intentionally induces [copyright violation], by manufacturing, offering to the public, providing, or otherwise trafficking in any product or service, any violation ... shall be liable as an infringer."

The legislation says the inducement must be "intentional" and defines that as "conscious and deliberate affirmative acts which a reasonable person would expect to result in widespread violations."

The Competitive Enterprise Institute recently argued in an article that, "While the bill requires an actual copyright violation for an 'inducer' to be held liable, one cannot prove a copyright violation without going to court. That opens wide the door to legal actions designed to chill technological and economic activities a court might construe as inducing a copyright violation."

Yahoo , Google , SBC and Verizon , as well as a number of other organizations including the Consumer Electronics Association, TechNet and the U.S. Internet Industry Association, have also aligned themselves against the latest working draft of the bill.