HRRC (Home Recording Rights Coalition ) Voices Caution And Concern Over New Copyright Office Recommendation On “Induce” Bill
Washington, Septermber 13, 2004 – The Home Recording Rights Coalition (HRRC) today said that a new recommendation from the U.S. Copyright Office to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding “induce” legislation would need much more scrutiny and discussion – including a full Congressional hearing – before it could be considered as a basis for a consensus on new copyright legislation. HRRC Chairman Gary Shapiro said the Office deserves credit for exploring a new direction – radically different from the existing legislation (S. 2560) and from an interim Copyright Office draft – but that the new direction also raises new and very serious concerns. HRRC continues to believe that an alternative offered by HRRC and 16 other private sector entities is a superior basis for future discussions.
HRRC said that the Copyright Office clearly had listened to concerns about interfering with private home recording, and instead has attempted to focus on the “dissemination to the public” of infringing material. However, the language of the bill could sweep up and hold liable technologists and merchants who have no knowledge, intent or business relationship as to any such dissemination activity. Based on a preliminary reading of the Office’s draft and explanatory materials, HRRC identified the following concerns:
- A “product or service, such as a computer program, technology, device or component” need only be “a cause” of infringing dissemination – no matter how minor it may be relative to other causes.
- The “commercial viability” of the component might be tied after the fact to its being “a cause” and need not be the main or even a major source of revenue from that component. There need be no finding of intent, knowledge or relationship of the originator of the “component” with the ultimate “infringing public dissemination.”
- So, an inventor, developer or retailer of a technological building block – even a single element of a computer program – could be liable, no matter what his knowledge or intent, or the design focus of his product.
- Once found liable, an injunction would be crafted to remove the “infringing” use – while this may be intended as an amelioration of liability, the real world effect would be to require the defendant to meet with copyright interests and others so as to satisfy them with a redesign – essentially, the equivalent of the Hollings Bill for the technologies in question.
- There are no protections against frivolous lawsuits.
HRRC said that due to the novel and unprecedented nature of the Copyright Office recommendation, and the concerns that it raises, this approach does not seem likely to attract a consensus of private sector parties. It differs so much from both S. 2560 and the alternatives that have been suggested to date that, if it is to be put forth as a possible basis for such consensus, at a very minimum a hearing must be held to explore its implications and ramifications. HRRC also believes that any new and basic draft of copyright legislation should include a codification of the Supreme Court’s formulation and holding in its 1984 Betamax decision.
Further information on this and related issues can be found on the HRRC website, http://www.hrrc.org/.
The Home Recording Rights Coalition, founded in 1981, is a leading advocacy group for consumers’ rights to use home electronics products for private, non-commercial purposes. The members of HRRC include consumers, retailers, manufacturers and professional servicers of consumer electronics products.
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