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Anti-P2P bill may slip past legislative rush

Top copyright official predicts Induce Act won't be part of slew of bills Congress will vote on before the holidays.

CHICAGO--A top government official predicted Thursday that a proposed copyright law that has alarmed technology companies will not be enacted in the last-minute legislative rush before the holidays.

Marybeth Peters, the U.S. register of copyrights, told a conference here that the so-called Induce Act would not be part of the slew of legislation--including key spending measures--that Congress is expected to vote on before leaving for next week's Thanksgiving holiday.

"I don't think you'll ever see database protection," said Peters, who has been involved in closed-door negotiations this fall over copyright legislation. "Something else you won't see this year is something known as the Induce Act."

The database bill would create a new intellectual property right for collections of information, while the Induce Act would prohibit inducing anyone to violate copyright law.

That proposal, which goes by the full name of Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act, represents the latest legislative attempt by large copyright holders to address what they see as the growing threat of peer-to-peer networks rife with pirated music, movies and software. Violations would be punished with civil fines and, in some circumstances, lengthy prison terms. But tech companies, librarians and consumer electronics groups are worried that legitimate hardware and software could be imperiled as well.

Peters also said that an unrelated huge copyright bill, called the Intellectual Property Protection Act (IPPA), had even odds of being enacted before Congress left town.

"Parts of this bill are extremely, extremely controversial," Peters said. "There's a 50-50 chance as I understand it that this bill could go (forward)."

The IPPA effectively bundles together a collection of bills, many of which either the House or the Senate have already approved. Some sections, for instance, authorize federal prosecutors to file civil lawsuits against file swappers, while others make it easier to launch criminal prosecutions against peer-to-peer users who are infringing copyrighted material.