Wednesday , May 22 2024

INDUCE Act: I Am Induced to Vomit

Allow me to be blunt – not that I really have to ask permission, but I like to give the impression that I am not totally solipsistic – the INDUCE Act utterly sucks cat piss through an infected straw, as first mentioned here.

This is yet another attempt by the copyright industry and its suck-up shills in Congress to ram through more “weapons” for the fight against copyright infringement at the expense of innovation and consumer rights. Today the Senate Judiciary Committee considers a bill that would hold technology companies liable for any product they make that encourages people to steal copyright materials:

    “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.

    The judiciary committee will also hear testimony from Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters and the heads of the Business Software Alliance and the Recording Industry Association of America. A representative from the IEEE-USA’s intellectual-property committee and the director of NetCoalition will also testify.

    ….Godwin said Senate judiciary staff are eager to get the legislation moving because they are worried that a federal appeals court in California will uphold an April 2003 court decision that did not hold peer-to-peer companies liable for their users’ copyright infringement. The so-called Grokster case was argued before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February, and a decision is expected soon. [Wired]

The Competitive enterprise Institute’s George Pieler is also alarmed:

    Please copy and share this article, download some music files, and photocopy your favorite chapters from Bill Clinton’s new book. It’s fun: Just do it!

    Did I convince you? If so, then Senate Judiciary Committee leaders think I should be held liable for copyright infringement, and owe damages to any copyright holders affected. On June 22, the Committee’s chairman and ranking member, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), introduced the “INDUCE Act” (S. 2560, proposed working title: “Inducement Devolves into Unlawful Child Exploitation Act”), which would penalize those found to “induce” a copyright infringement as if they were actual infringers themselves. This is heavyweight legislation, also sponsored by the bipartisan Senate leadership of Daschle and Frist, along with Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.).

    The INDUCE Act is the latest in a string of fast-tracked Senate proposals designed to give major media players more “power tools” to attack downloading, duplicating, and exchanging music and video files over the Web. However, this legislation is not confined to person-to-person (P2P) file exchanges: It would affect cable, PC, PDA, satellite TV and radio, photocopying, and other technologies that allow transmission of data—and threaten the emergence of future technologies. Had such a law been in place during the 1970s, we may not have PCs, CDs, and other technologies we now take for granted.

    ….The Big Picture. Still, to focus the INDUCE Act debate on downloads and file swapping alone concedes too much to the proponents. The bill is in no way confined to file sharing, and could impact every use of technology to exchange information that could be copyright-protected. For example, on July 14, 2004, a federal judge allowed the music industry to proceed with its case against major Napster investors on the theory that those investments cost the music industry big bucks. The INDUCE Act would expand the number of individuals and businesses exposed to such lawsuits. Investors, designers, and entrepreneurs would have to weigh the potential for astronomical legal costs before backing any company or technology that might be found to induce infringement.

    ….Indeed, the sweeping new legal concept behind INDUCE would establish a de facto permitting process for any business or technology that enables transmission or copying of copyrightable material. The potential for inducement would have to be weighed before the introduction of a new technology or device. Government standards would likely define “inducement” and require a sort of “inducement impact statement.” In essence this constitutes a “precautionary principle” for technology, such that no new technology or product can be marketed until it can be proven, in advance, that it will never do harm to anyone anywhere (a virtual impossibility since one cannot prove a negative). The chilling effect on the American economy would be substantial.

    A Note on Process. Caution is warranted in the copyright debate. It should trouble any student of the democratic process that the leap in contributory liability represented by the INDUCE Act is getting so little legislative review. There has already been one (barely thwarted) attempt to ram S. 2560 through the Senate by calling the bill directly on the floor, with no debate. An issue of this magnitude deserves more INDUCED debate.

The broadness of the bill can lead to absurd results, the chill upon innovation would be profound, the further erosion of consumer rights would be catastrophic: kill this putrescent insanity NOW.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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