OPINION

Hatch, Committee Should Be More Open-Minded on P2P

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and other parties with a stake in the peer-to-peer (P2P) warsshould meet with commercial P2P industry companies to talk about the so-calledINDUCE Act.

This is the point of view expressed by StreamCast Networks CEO Mike Weiss, one of several industry leaders who oppose the act as overreaching. He questions why no one from the industry was invited to last Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the legislation.

“Why is Congress turning a deaf ear towards learning the truth and hearing all sides of the story?” Weiss asks.

In the past, Congress, in effect, has put stakeholders together and told them to work out compromises and solutions that Congress could then consider. “That’s what should be done here,” Weiss declares.

Indirect Liability

INDUCE (Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act) is Hollywood’s “overreaching new form of indirect liability that will force technology companies of all kinds to ‘ask permission’ before innovating for fear of ruinous litigation if they don’t,” Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) lawyer Fred Von Lohmann says.

It’s being spearheaded by Hatch, who also has led other initiatives on behalf of Hollywood, such as PIRATE with Sen. Pat Leahy or Hollywood-helpful acts such as Artists’ Rights and Theft Prevention Act (ART) from Senators Dianne Feinstein and John Cornyn.

ART would establish new federal crimes for the unauthorized recording of movies in cinemas or other venues and for “other acts relating to copyright infringement.”PIRATE amends federal copyright law so the US attorney general can “commence a civil action against any person who engages in conduct constituting copyright infringement.”

Copyright Cartel

Some 42 major companies, including Google, NetCoalition, Novell and Yahoo, are actively opposing INDUCE, saying it would “chill innovation and drive investment in technology (and accompanying jobs) overseas.”

Adam Eisgrau, executive director of P2P United, the P2P industry trade and lobby group, says INDUCE is “the fearsome and flawed product of a perfect policy storm.” P2P United’s members include such companies as StreamCast (Morpheus), FreePeers (BearShare), Manolito P2P (Blubster), Grokster (Grokster) and MetaMachine (eDonkey2000).

Eisgrau says that if INDUCE is passed into law, it would be because “the raw power of America’s copyright cartel has grown to the point that…Congress will havegranted it control over the very climate on which our entire informationeconomy, not just the entertainment industry, depends.”

But Hatch is determined to see INDUCE enacted.

“If you help us, we just might get it [INDUCE] right, but if you don’t, we’re going to do it [anyway],” Hatch is quoted as saying in a Washington Post story.

Misunderstanding of P2P Software

Showing that he indeed does need help on this matter, Hatch also expressed on the Judiciary Committee Web site and during a hearing that “When used as intended, this software [P2P] automatically redistributes every file downloaded. This makes uploading and redistribution automatic and invisible to the average user.”

But Weiss disagreed, saying, “At no time and under no circumstances are users’ hard drives, or indeed any files in their computers, automatically made available toother users.”

Hatch, who has received $159,860 in contributions from the entertainment industry, is infamous for making mistakes in representing P2P technology and practices that are picked up and quoted by the mainstream media as facts.

With him on the Judiciary Committee, and amounts they have received from the entertainment industry, are: Charles Schumer, $509,635; John Edwards, $314,547; Arlen Specter, $273,800; Dianne Feinstein, $272,316; Patrick Leahy, $221,950; Edward M. Kennedy, $200,708; Mike DeWine, $111,199; Dick Durbin, $81,100; Joseph Biden, $75,774; Chuck Grassley, $73,572; Lindsey Graham, $72,523; Russ Feingold, $45,450; and Herb Kohl, $250. The amounts come from http://www.opensecrets.org.

Accuracy of Information

Weiss contended that when Hatch introduced the INDUCE legislation, he presented a multipage indictment of P2P companies, “littered with inaccurate and misleading statements about legitimate P2P software providers.”

Weiss urged the lawmakers to delve further into the issue and seek out accurate information. “I particularly urge Senator Hatch to do so before repeating inaccuracies that appear to be speaking points drafted by entertainment lobbyists and transmitting these falsities publicly and on the record in front of his Senate colleagues,” Weiss said.

Hatch — accused of using unlicensed software on his official Web site –seems to believe people who download copyrighted songs should have their computers automatically destroyed, an attitude for which he was awarded the sobriquet “The Terminator.”

Among his supporters is Marybeth Peters, the U.S. Register who, among other things, wants the Betamax case, under which the movie studios tried to keep the first consumer VCRs off the market, reopened.

The U.S. Supreme Court foiled the attempt, stating: “It seems extraordinary to suggest that the Copyright Act confers upon all copyright owners collectively, much less the two [studios] in this case, the exclusive right to distribute VCR’s simply because they may be used to infringe copyrights. That, however, is the logical implication of their claim.”


Jon Newton, a TechNewsWorld columnist, founded and runs p2pnet.net, a daily peer-to-peer and digital media news site focused on issues surrounding file-sharing, the entertainment industry and distributed computing. p2pnet is based in Canada where sharing music online is legal.


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