Even though it doesn't have vast supplies of oil or a stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and his colleagues are pushing a bill through congress that just might kill the iPod and others like it. Hatch is pushing hard to bring the Inducing Infringement of Copyright Act (Induce Act) to the full Senate for a vote. Though Hatch would like the public to believe that this legislation will only adversely impact the "bad guys," the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argues that the act is so sweeping, it would effectively take down the "good guys" as well. The EFF claims that this act, which makes it illegal to "induce" people to infringe copyright, could potentially wipe out everything from CD burners to our beloved iPod.
According to a report from Mi2n.com, because the Induce Act defines "intent" as being "determined by a reasonable person taking into account all relevant facts," it is unlikely that a technology company like Apple would be able to easily dismiss any lawsuit brought against it. This means that the company would face a mountain of legal fees. For example, Mi2n reports that the company Sonic Blue recently fought a group of copyright holders in court over its ReplayTV. Sonic Blue fit a bill of close to one million dollars per month in legal fees alone. What it boils down to is that copyright owners could possibly use the Induce Act to sue any tech company that builds a device they don't approve of, effectively bringing innovation in this area to a relative halt.
To support their theory, EFF has posted a mock complaint in a lawsuit that could be brought against Apple. Similar to an actual complaint that record companies might draft, the EFF (playing devil's advocate) accuse Apple of selling its iPod to induce people to infringe copyright. The complaint claims that, "Apple advertises that its 40 GB iPod can hold 'up to 10,000 songs.' This amount of capacity far exceeds the total CD collection of the vast majority of Americans. This suggests that Apple knew and intended that iPod owners would be getting their music from elsewhere, including P2P networks." Also named in the complaint are Toshiba for manufacturing the hard drive used in the iPod and CNET Networks for writing a review of the iPod that instructs users on how to copy music files between computers.
"We don't mean to single out Apple, Toshiba or CNET," said Cindy Cohn, EFF's legal director. "If the Induce Act passed, a similar lawsuit could easily be imagined against Hewlett-Packard for selling PCs equipped with CD burners or against cell phone manufacturers who allow users to swap ringtones."
While it's unclear whether or not any record label would even want to file such a complaint, as the iTunes Music Store and iPod seem to be a glimpse of hope for an otherwise trouble ridden music industry, EFF's efforts should at least give us all something to think about.