New Legislation Could Have a Big Impact on IT

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A new bill that was debated last month on the U.S. Senate floor has elicited strong opinions from major players in many different industries, including IT. The Induce (or Intentional Inducement of Copyright Infringement) Act of 2004, sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), states that anyone who provides a product or system that “intentionally aids, abets, induces or procures” a copyright violation could be sued for copyright infringement.

Although the bill has been praised by several movie and music recording industry figures for its protection of intellectual property, it has also drawn the ire of many in the IT field–including the Business Software Alliance and NetCoalition–who charge that it could stifle technological development. Already, observers have questioned whether popular products like e-mail-to-RSS converters and Apple’s iPod would be permitted if the bill were passed.

 

However, the technology most threatened by the proposed bill (and, incidentally, its primary target) is the peer-to-peer file-swapping network. Any person or company who created networks used to trade movies, music and other multimedia over the Internet–even if those networks weren’t created for that purpose–could face copyright infringement lawsuits.

 

There are, though, some cases for the bill on the IT side. For example, a substantial amount of software (some of which is used in home labs, as a reader recently pointed out) is pirated. Also, certification test answers habitually are lifted off of these networks. If p2p networks were shut down, presumably it would make these illicit transactions more difficult.

 

Because of the all-encompassing language in the Induce Act (if followed to the letter, VCRs and photocopiers could be outlawed) and the rapidly evolving nature of IT technology, there is a considerable gray area surrounding this issue. Let us know how you feel about it.

 

To comment on the Induce Act and/or IT piracy, send e-mail to letters@certmag.com.

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