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Is there a little devil on the way?
By Scott Bradner
On June 17 U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was supposed to introduce the INDUCE act, at least according to a number of new stories. The bill was delayed but a version of it may have been introduced by the time you read this. This small, 160 word, bill, if read literally is quite a piece of work but I wonder if that is what we are supposed to do.
A version of the "Inducement Devolves into Unlawful Child Exploitation Act of 2004" (INDUCE) was leaked on June 16th to a few people active in the copyright debate, many of whom promptly went ballistic. Its easy to see why. The core of the act extends the definition of a copyright infringer to "whoever intentionally induces any violation" of copyright laws. The act says that "intentionally induces" means intentionally aids, abets, induces, counsels, or procures, and intent may be shown by acts from which a reasonable person would find intent to induce infringement based upon all relevant information about such acts then reasonably available to the actor, including whether the activity relies on infringement for its commercial viability."
Read literally this could mean that anyone selling a product that could be used to infringe copyright would be guilty of infringement. Senator Hatch is from Utah and parts of Utah are quite stark and empty (and beautiful as I can attest) but I doubt that it is the case that none of Senator Hatch's constituents use the Internet or own personal computers, copiers, scanners, cameras, VCRs, TiVOs, portable music players, paper, pens or pencils. Since all of these could be used to make illegal copies of copyrighted material, under the literal wording of this bill, anyone selling any of these could be guilty of copyright infringement. This could get a bit dicey for Intel, Microsoft, and pencil makers. (By the way there is a neat web site all about pencils - http://www.pencils.com/.)
This is not the first time that Senator Hatch has come up with half-, or quarter- baked anti copyright infringement ideas. (See RFC 3751 (http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3751.txt.) It is entirely believable that Senator Hatch would introduce a bill like this. Even though at best, this bill looks like it was written by the teenage kid of a movie studio executive who was trying to protect his inheritance.
But maybe the draft has served its purpose already. Just maybe this draft only purpose was to be leaked just to set off a cacophony of outrage and scorn. Maybe Senator Hatch thinks that he can introduce a somewhat less wacko bill and it will sail through because it will look so good in comparison to this one.
Conjuring up a bogeyman then killing it off as a way to distract people while you sneak a little devil into the room is not a new concept. If that is what Senator Hatch is doing then we need to be on the lookout for the little devil, it should be showing up any day now.
disclaimer: Cacophony at Harvard is hardly new but the above addition to the INDUCE cacophony is mine not the university's.