This coming Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider a bill that would hold technology companies liable for any product they make that ‘encourages’ people to ‘steal’ copyright materials. Critics however say the bill is the wrong fix for the piracy problem.
“We think this is a recipe for disaster for the Internet, said Markham Erickson, general counsel for NetCoalition, a public policy group that represents Internet companies like Google, Yahoo and Internet service providers. The bill as it is currently drafted is extremely broad and not entirely clear. It would, at a minimum, undermine the Sony Betamax decision.
In the Betamax decision, the Supreme Court ruled that any technology that people use for legal purposes would be legal — even if the device could be used for illegal purposes, like content piracy. Because of the ruling, the consumer electronics industry and Hollywood went on to develop a thriving market in home video and DVDs.
This takes an objective standard and replaces it with a subjective one that allows a copyright holder to try and determine the intent of a company when producing a product, Erickson said. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that you would be placing the entertainment industry in charge of technological innovation if this law were passed.
It’s the biggest threat to technology in 20 years, said Jeff Joseph, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association. The organization’s president will testify before the committee. This bill really creates a huge risk that people won’t bring new products to market because they will be afraid to be sued out of existence, said Mike Godwin, legal director of Public Knowledge, which is opposed to the bill and is submitting written testimony to the committee. We keep asking, ‘What’s the rush?’ It’s not clear that everything has to be wrapped up in the summer of 2004.” More at Wired News.