The Senate Judiciary Committee is still considering a bill that would change US Copyright law so that "companies that rely on copyright infringement to make a profit" could be sued for damages by copyright holders. On the surface, the Induce Act doesn’t sound so bad but, as with just about everything in the current discussion over copyright law, there is much below the surface that makes everything less simple.

As I ranted back in July (here and here), the supporters of this law, the recording and movie industries, wanted to get it passed with little publicity and no public hearings. These companies want the federal government to make it easy for them to sue anyone who makes a device – hardware or software – that allows consumers (that would be you and me) to make copies of their products. Basically, they really don’t want you to move music from a CD to your iPod, record movies to your TiVo, or transfer those movies to a DVD, even though the courts have held that it’s your right to do so for personal use.

Although the bill has been "softened" a little from the original law (largely written by industry lobbyists), the Induce Act is still a vague mess which is meant to gut the fair use provisions of current copyright law. While the media companies say the bill is aimed at peer-to-peer file sharing over the internet, it’s really designed to induce companies not to create the tools that make it possible to easily use the media you buy. Under the Induce Act many electronics and computer companies would be scared off by making them liable for any illegal use of those tools.

If you’re interested in more details about the Induce Act and the campaign to defeat it, take a look at the Electronic Frontiers Foundation pages on intellectual property. The bottom line is that this is a bad law being pushed by companies with a lot of money to spend on Congressmen. It deserves to be buried in committee.