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Meet the New Draft, Same as the Old Draft

"That’s a real stinger that guts the Betamax decision," Wilhelms says. "If this language appears in the final bill, it will still be legal to produce VCRs, but it very well may be infringement to produce VCRs that include a jack for input from your TV. Under the same reasoning, the TV with the output jack would be equally at risk." In essence, Wilhelms says, the Copyright Office’s draft would have the same end result.

Internet service providers like Verizon quickly objected to the Copyright Office’s alternative. "Let’s say the recording industry wants the names of our subscribers," said Verizon VP and associate general counsel Sarah Deutsch in an interview with News.com. "Is objecting to the request interfering with the efforts to detect infringing uses? It seems to be." With the support of 17 companies including Verizon, the Home Recording Rights Coalition proposed an alternative in late August that amended the Induce Act’s language to cover only technology "specifically designed to cause or enable infringement." The Recording Industry Association of America objected to the revision, claiming that it wouldn’t cover peer-to-peer networks.

In September, a group called Downhill Battle—which advocates a loosening of copyright restrictions on everything from sampling to file-sharing—created a "Save Betamax" Web site to lobby consumers to contact their legislators and express opposition to the Induce Act in any of its proposed forms. According to the Web site, more than 5,000 people have signed up.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum is the American Conservative Union, which traditionally endorses strict copyright law but calls the Induce Act (SB2560) an "attack (on) consumers' right to use technologies" in magazine ads featuring a mock movie marquee with the words "The S.2560 Horror" and the text "the scary part is that it features Republicans."

The real threat of the Induce Act is that it would have a chilling effect on investment in and R&D for new technology, Wilhelms says. "The whole Induce bill--and the discussion draft--only make sense if you believe that we have reached the end of technological advancement in the way we share information; that email and P2P are at the end of a trail that began with the cave paintings in Lasceaux. If you don’t believe that, then giving anyone who has an interest in maintaining the present scheme of things the power to control what comes next is counterintuitive."

The Induce Act (SB2560) is currently under review by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is expected to come up for committee vote on September 30.

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