New language would change focus to 'mass infringers.'

The Consumer Electronics Assn. and 10 other groups that oppose the pending Induce Act have hammered out alternative language for the legislation and today (Aug. 25) presented it to Senate leaders.

At a July 22 Judiciary Committee hearing, Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told the groups to either spend August forging a redrafted bill or accept the original version.

The bill, S. 2560, would enable artists and labels to sue peer-to-peer networks that profit by
"inducing" consumers to illegally share protected copyrighted works.

The new draft language focuses more on those who engage in "indiscriminate, mass infringing" than does the existing draft legislation. According to the opponents, the original draft, which is supported by the RIAA, is "sufficiently vague and overbroad that devices like the iPod might be judged to be illegal inducement."

The new proposal would impose liability on those who actively distribute a computer program or other tool that is specifically designed to cause or enable infringement, but would provide appropriate liability exemptions for ISPs, investors, credit card companies and others, even if an individual uses a tool or program that facilitates infringement. It also would allow for recovery of full costs, including reasonable attorney's fees, by the prevailing party in a lawsuit to discourage frivolous litigation.

The new draft also codifies the Supreme Court's "Sony Betamax" decision, which confirmed that a person or company may manufacture or distribute a hardware or software product that is capable of infringement if it is also capable of commercially significant non-infringing uses.

Verizon, MCI and Public Knowledge are among the other groups that contributed to the proposed new language.

A RIAA spokesman comments: "We're still reviewing the new proposal. As drafted, it appears that no infringing networks would be found liable, but it poses some interesting ideas and concepts. The good news is that CEA is looking at constructive ways to separate themselves from the bad actors."