September 28, 2004

The Push Is On [7:10 am]

From Reuters via FindLaw: U.S. Senate to Weigh Bill Targeting Web Song Swaps (also NYTimes)

After weeks of negotiations, the U.S. Senate could take action this week on a bill that would make it easier to sue “peer-to-peer” networks like Kazaa and LimeWire that allow users to copy music and movies over the Internet.

[...] Only a few short weeks remain in the legislative session but Shapiro and opponents worry that the measure’s powerful backers, who include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, could slip it into one of the giant spending bills that Congress must approve before it adjourns.

The Senate Judiciary Committee could take up the bill on Thursday, a committee spokeswoman said.

[...] “The stakes here are chilling what drives America’s economy, which is technical innovation, both in the marketplace of products and the marketplace of ideas,” said Adam Eisgrau, executive director of P2P United, a trade group for several peer-to-peer networks.

From Wired News: New Induce Act Alarms Foes

But critics say the new language fails — again — to address the concerns of technology and consumer groups that believe the bill, if passed, would have a devastating effect on innovation and consumers’ right to use technology how they please.

“Any technology that allows dissemination is still completely threatened by this bill,” said Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Even if you have nothing in your business model that has anything to do with infringement, you can still be held liable for all of your users who do infringe.”

[...] “If I release and distribute a product that can be used to infringe, I’m at least going to face a jury trial,” said Andrew Greenberg, a vice chairman of the IEEE-USA’s intellectual-property committee, who testified on the original draft of the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July.

Thus, the proposed law could deter companies from investing in new products that may make them liable for billions of dollars — even if they never intended the product to be used to infringe copyright.

In addition, the bill would nullify the so-called Betamax decision, which sparked 20 years of innovation in technology. This legislation introduces a new kind of infringement — inducement — which Betamax does not protect, Schultz said.

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