Friday, August 06, 2004

Don't Innovate: Regulate

Timothy Wu, writing at Lessig's blog this week, has posted an alternative to the U.S. Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act (IIC), formerly know as the INDUCE Act. This act would massively expand the field of liability for copyright infringement, possibly sweeping producers of technological devices and providers of (p2p) services into illegality. Its abstract wordings create great uncertainty towards the legal status of technology and use thereof. The proposed act goes against the current safe harbour condition of "substantially non-infringing uses", as established in the landmark Sony v. Universal case.

Wu's Inducing Innovation Act tries to provide clear boundaries towards the scope of liability for parties who offer a new product or service: a clear intent to induce infringement (accomplice liability), and not mere knowledge of possible infringing uses, has to be established. This provides a stricter interpretation of the inducement to infringe, and could leave more breathing space for innovators.

It is a somewhat more positive approach than Ernest Miller's, who collects technologies and fields possibly outlawed under the INDUCE Act on a daily basis. As the sole executioner he puts them before the firing squad, rattling the legal provisions machine gun-style. Sometimes his shots seem to miss, but he usually is right on target. Body count 'till date: 21.

Wu's proposed Act is no friendly fire, but it is questionable if it will have any effect beyond the academic.

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For your viewing pleasure a link to the video of the hearings on the Act.
And here is a written testimony of the witnesses and the statements of Sens. Hatch and Leahy, who introduced the Act.


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