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Judiciary Gets Earful on Copyright

A group of computer companies, fair-use advocates and electronics manufacturers has written the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to try to delay action on a new copyright bill.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, would amend the copyright act to make it a criminal offense to "intentionally aid, abet, induce, or procure" copyright infringement, according to fair use group Public Knowledge.

In addition, it would use the "reasonable person" standard to identify "acts from which a reasonable person would find intent to induce infringement." That widens the net from the "intent" standard usually applying to vicarious infringement, says Public Knowledge.

The bill is backed by Hollywood, which is trying to protect its intellectual property from easy digital pirating.

The groups argue that the amendment would undermine the 1984 Betamax case that established consumer home copying rights. "This clear standard has given venture capitalists, engineers and manufacturers the confidence and certainty that they could invest their resources in developing a wide range of consumer products without facing copyright liability. these products include personal computers, scanners, CD burners, modems, instant messaging products, and the software that enables them to operate. S. 2560 would eliminate this confidence and certainty."

The ad hoc group included Public Knowledge, Google, Intel, the American Library Association, and the Consumer Electronics Association and a veritable host of others.