New Senate Bill Threatens Betamax Protection
The Home Recording Rights Coalition today expressed deep concern over a new Senate bill, the "Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004," that would impose copyright liability for any person for any activity "intentionally inducing" copyright infringement. HRRC called for a full hearing on the legislation.
HRRC said that the proposed bill, though not overtly aimed at devices and software, could be interpreted as giving copyright owners a veto over the introduction of almost any new technology for home and personal use, and thus effectively eviscerate the fundamental public policies and essential safeguards for technology developers that formed the basis of the Supreme Court's landmark 1984 Betamax ruling.
"We understand that this bill is aimed by its sponsors at multi-purpose on-line services, and how they might be abused. But it also covers all multi-purpose devices, software, and home networking products," said HRRC Chairman Gary Shapiro. "Every time entrepreneurs launch a new hardware, software, or home network product, this bill would seem to subject them to a jury trial about what they had in mind. This would chill the introduction of new technology and new products across a wide range of media. It merits full and careful consideration of all of its potential consequences."
In 1976, motion picture studios filed for a court injunction against the marketing of the first consumer VCR, or "video tape recorder." When the case reached the Supreme Court, the Court observed: "The request for an injunction ... indicates that [the studios] seek, in effect, to declare VTR's contraband." The Court refused to ban VCRs according to their use or terms of sale, observing: "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 VTR's simply because they may be used to infringe copyrights. That, however, is the logical implication of their claim."
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