The U.S. Public Policy Committee of ACM — one of CRA’s affiliate organizations — has joined a broad coalition of groups who have written (pdf) to the members of the US Senate urging them to “slow down” their efforts to pass legislation (called INDUCE) that would create a new form of secondary liability for copyright infringement. The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to act on recommended language prepared by the U.S. Copyright Office that would hold technology makers and service providers liable for copyright violations by end users even if they never knew, contemplated, or intended to facilitate user infringement.
In an earlier letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, USACM rightly cautioned “that the legislation’s flawed approach of restricting technology rather than focusing on individual acts of infringement could have serious unintended consequences which could undermine continued innovations in software and digital computing and introduce new liabilities for technology developers.”
In the latest letter, the coalition — which includes Google, Yahoo!, Public Knowledge, Intel, IEEE-USA, Sun Microsystems, Consumer Electronics Association, Verizon, Radio Shack, Earthlink, the Association of American Universities, Texas Instruments, and the National Venture Capital Association — raises concerns about the Copyright Office recommendations:
The Copyright Office’s most recent approach would create a new form of strict copyright liability for a large class of providers of hardware, software and services used in conjunction with the electronic or physical dissemination of goods, services and information. These companies and institutions could be found liable without regard to their knowledge, intent, or relationship to the infringer, simply for providing a product, service, facility or financing. All it takes to be found liable is to meet one of the three vague criteria proposed by the Copyright Office, which are to be applied to some undefined subset of a defendant’s products or services. As a result, anyone involved in the dissemination technologies could be strictly liable when it unknowingly derives revenue that may be small in relation to its own provision of goods and services. Perhaps most troubling, entities that participate in the Internet and other electronic space would have no way of structuring their activities to anticipate and avoid — or even minimize — these risks.