Tech firms seek to soften induce legislation

Internet service providers and media-related technology firms are proposing to soften a bill in Congress that they say will make them targets of frivolous entertainment industry copyright lawsuits.

The group, which includes Verizon Communications, SBC Communications, MCI Communications, recently submitted to lawmakers their alternative to the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act.

The companies behind the alternative to the Induce Act want to restrict the scope of the proposed bill, which would essentially make companies liable if their software or technology encourages users to violate copyright laws.

U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah,) Patrick Leahy, (D-VT,) and others, according to The Associated Press introduced the study this summer.

Hollywood movie and television studios and the recording industry are the bill’s principal backers. They see it as their best hope for shutting down companies behind online file-sharing software, who by and large have escaped liability for the rampant distribution of movies and music by users of their programs.

Although the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent copyright protection systems, the entertainment industry has largely failed to persuade courts to hold file-sharing companies legally liable.

If it becomes law, the act would make it easier for the entertainment firms to sue file-sharing companies. But the Induce Act has alarmed many critics, who claim it would also endanger many other companies.

Among those companies and organizations seeking changes in the Induce Act are business groups such as the Consumer Electronics Association, which counts Microsoft and Apple Computer as members.

Critics of the bill have argued that, in its current form, it could be used as the basis of a copyright infringement case against a company like Apple on grounds that its iPod digital music player encourages owners to copy music, perhaps without permission.

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