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Senator wants to ban P2P networks

But backers of bill to outlaw file-swapping networks seek to quell worries that iPods could be caught in the dragnet.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read
The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary said Thursday that a ban on file-trading networks is urgently required but agreed to work with tech companies concerned that devices like Apple Computer's iPod would be imperiled.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he intended to move ahead with the highly controversial Induce Act despite objections from dozens of Internet providers and Silicon Valley manufacturers. The Induce Act says "whoever intentionally induces any violation" of copyright law would be legally liable for those violations.

Hatch added, however, that he welcomed comments from critics. "If you help us, we just might get it right," he said. "If you don't, we're going to do it. Something has to be done. There's no way to solve these problems so everyone's totally pleased."

The Induce Act, which enjoys broad support in the music industry and from a handful of software companies, is designed to overturn an April 2003 ruling from a California judge that said StreamCast Networks, which distributes Morpheus, and Grokster were not liable for copyright infringements that took place using their software. Critics of the bill warn that it could make hardware makers like Apple and Toshiba--and even journalists--liable for products and reviews that could "induce" the public to violate copyright law.

Vermont's Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the panel, echoed Hatch's comments. "Nobody wants to undermine the iPod or any other piece of technology out there," he said. "We have to understand that some people use P2P technology in ways that are wrong and illegal."

The Business Software Alliance, which counts as members Microsoft, Apple and Adobe Systems, initially applauded the Induce Act in a favorable statement last month that called it a "reasonable balance between antipiracy and technological innovation."

But by the time Thursday's hearing took place, BSA President Robert Holleyman had become far more tepid in his appraisal of the bill. Holleyman testified that the measure would be acceptable only if it were rewritten "to ensure that only bad actors are found liable."

Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, suggested that the Senate wait for the courts to figure out which file-swapping networks are legal. "Right now, I don't think legislation is necessary, because the harm is greater than any benefit that may be derived," he said.

More than 40 trade associations and advocacy groups voiced similar sentiments in a letter to senators July 6. The Induce Act "would chill innovation and drive investment in technology" overseas, said the letter, signed by CNET Networks, eBay, Google, Intel, MCI, TiVo, Verizon Communications, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo. CNET Networks is the publisher of News.com.