Tech, electronics firms fear copyright bill could target them

Cox News Service

WASHINGTON -- Tell Santa to hurry if you want him to bring CD or DVD burners and jukebox programs. By Christmas, such gifts might be threatened if Congress passes a new law to fight movie and music pirates.

Entertainment companies that hold copyrights are pushing Congress to crack down on people who illegally trade songs and movies via the Internet.

But consumer electronics makers fear a new bill could go too far by clamping down on devices and software that use and disseminate online content. They say it could discourage innovation and interfere with consumers' rights to use technology as they wish.

The Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act, commonly known as the Induce Act, is intended to make third parties liable for "inducing" others to infringe upon copyrighted material. Opponents say it could ensnare a very long list of companies.


Makers of CD and DVD burners are obvious targets, but even search-engine companies such as Google and Yahoo! fear they could face expensive lawsuits for helping pirates exploit the Internet.

Passing the Induce Act "would be opening a giant can of worms" because so many devices and services could be involved, said Andrew Greenberg, vice chairman of the Intellectual Property Committee for IEEE-USA, a trade group for electronics and computer engineers.

Since the legislation was introduced in June, several widely varying drafts have floated among legislators. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider a final version.

The legislation has considerable bipartisan support. The Judiciary chairman and vice chairman, Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the original bill.

With the lawmakers' election recess expected to begin Friday, time is likely too short to pass a standalone bill. But the Induce Act's language could be attached to other legislation.

Congress is already moving to hand entertainment companies a related victory. The House last week approved a bill to increase federal police powers against Internet copyright infringement. The Senate could consider the legislation this week.

"In 2000, the music industry shipped 942 million CDs to retailers for sale," said Jonathan Lamy, spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America. "In 2003, that was down to just 745 million CDs." he said.

The loss of sales "has robbed us of the ability to invest in the new artists of tomorrow," he said.

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