Busted for owning an MP3 player.

This is not exactly “new” news, the story came out around the 25th of June, but it’s important enough to warrant a mention here.

This story revolves around a proposed amendment to the copyright laws, one that has far reaching implications.
In short, the idea is that any service or device that can be seen to “induce” copyright violation, can have the manufacturers or providers be held accountable.
That doesn’t sound too bad in theory, but consider the implications, there are many things that can be considered inducements to copyright infringement. Here are some examples:
– Ipod, or any storage based MP3 player.
– All P2P file sharing applications.
– Removable hard drives.
– CD and DVD burners and burning programs.
– Instant Chat and IRC programs.
– Web hosting.
– Internet connection.

In fact, even e-mail could be seen as an inducement to copyright infringement, after all, how many times have you sent or received some image or text that you were yourself e-mailed?

The question is; Do we really want lawyers instead of legislators deciding what constitutes fair usage?

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t.

This problem goes hand in hand with the current worldwide mess with regards to software patents and the patent industry in general. Now days you just can’t have non specific laws and patents allowed to get though. Because you just know that sooner or later, a bunch of lawyers are going to try and turn it into cash.

Take Micro$ofts recent patent of “body networking” or worse, the patent on online shopping, the patent of a vague idea is wrong, only patents on explicit implementations of an idea should be permissible. Doing so would allow innovation on a scale we are not seeing at present because people are blocked from doing so by dozens of frivolous patents based on vague ideas.

You know that there is a problem when dozens of companies are popping up the world over, and they don’t actually offer a product or service, what they do is patent a bunch of vague un-implemented ideas and then sit back and wait for someone else to do the work before hitting them up for licensing fees.

Both patents, and in this case laws must be totally explicit to avoid them being abused, so a law on inducement must NOT be permitted to be vague as it opens nearly every service provider or device manufacturer to litigation, and even if the cases are thrown out it still amounts to millions of dollars wasted, and the only people happy about that are the lawyers, since they end up pocketing most of it.

So in summary, the idea of an “inducement” law is ok, but it must be tightly worded so that it can’t be made to apply in areas not foreseen by the legislators.

The Register has the story in more detail here.



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