Copyright office pitches anti-P2P legislation

The U.S. Copyright Office has drafted a new version of the proposed Induce Act that it believes will ban networks such as Kazaa and Morpheus, while not putting hardware such as portable hard drives and MP3 players on the wrong side of the law.

The original Induce Act has been severely criticized for possibly jeopardizing products - such as Apple Computer’s iPod - that could induce people to commit piracy.

The proposed legislation is in response to a decision from a federal appeals court in late August that found that the Grokster and Morpheus file-swapping networks are legal to operate. CNET reported that the decision has sent shock waves around Capitol Hill. Now groups like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and their allies in Congress are scrambling for legislation such as the Induce Act that would overturn the 9th Circuit’s ruling.

The Copyright Office’s four-page discussion draft appears to back away from the broad sweep of the original Induce Act by making it more difficult for companies to be found liable for copyright violations. It says anyone who intentionally induce copyright violations can be found liable, with induce defined as one or more affirmative, overt acts that are reasonably expected to cause or persuade another person or persons to violate copyright law.

However, the Copyright Office’s proposal is raising concern among consumer groups and Internet providers, who fear that it suffers from many of the same defects as the original draft. One section, for instance, said companies that actively interfere with a copyright holder’s efforts to identify pirates could be liable.

Another section suggests that Internet providers and technology companies must take all reasonably available corrective measures” to prevent piracy.

Will Rodger, director of public policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said the Copyright Office’s draft was objectionable because it would effectively regulate computer hardware and software.

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