Conservatives Decry Induce Act

Jeff Berg
WASHINGTON D.C. — The nation’s oldest conservative group came out against the Induce Act Friday, with a series of humorous advertisements poking fun at the act and any Republicans who might support it.

The American Conservative Union’s ad, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, the Weekly Standard and National Review, criticized Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch’s bill, claiming that that the Induce Act “attacks consumers’ right to use technologies,” and attempted to “make the intellectual property rights of Hollywood fat cats more important than the personal property rights of Americans.”

“This is the Hollywood liberals trying to crush innovation,” ACU deputy director Stacie Rumenap told CNET News. “What’s sad is they’ve got Republicans on their side.”

The Induce Act, sponsored by Hatch in June, originally included wording that anyone who induces a violation of copyright law could be held liable.

Public policy organizations like NetCoalition, which represents Google, Yahoo and CNET, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, quickly came out against the act, claiming that it would overturn a 1984 Supreme Court decision referred to as the "Betamax" decision.

The Betamax decision said that technology companies couldn’t be held liable for copyright infringement that utilized their products provided that the technology was “capable of substantial non-infringing uses.”

“The problem is that it doesn’t look like they’re willing to preserve the Sony Betamax standard for the cause of action of inducement,” said Markham Erickson, associate general counsel for NetCoalition.

A new version of the bill was privately circulated on Capital Hill Friday which sought to address those concerns. It clarifies that companies must engage in “conscious and deliberate affirmative acts” to be found liable.

“This version represents constructive movement to meet the legitimate concerns of the various stakeholders, including the technology, public-interest and consumer-electronics communities,” said a spokesman for Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy, who supports the bill.

Even with the new wording, the Electronic Frontier Foundation still finds the bill objectionable.

“Any technology that allows dissemination is still completely threatened by this bill,” said Jason Schultz, an attorney with the EFF.

Another ad featuring the picture of a traveling musician laden with instruments and the words, “Don’t Let Congress Make Him Your Next Portable Music Player,” will begin running in Roll Call and local newspapers starting today.