Avast, Ye Pirates

Get yourself--and Congress--ready for the next wave of absurd anti-file-sharing tactics

"Even though these bills are trying to target peer-to-peer, the language that they use will trample not only other technologies, but ones we haven't invented yet," Schultz says.

These issues are even more prevalent in the case of the aforementioned worst-case scenario: the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act (S. 2560, formerly known as INDUCE, now IICA), which dropped off the Senate calendar in early October but is expected to be retooled for next year. Introduced by the ubiquitous Senator Hatch (who, according to congressional newspaper The Hill, has sponsored more unconstitutional laws than any of his peers), IICA would've made any company that induced--or promoted the inducing of--copyright infringement liable for that transgression. Therefore, not only would VCR, TiVo and CD-burner manufacturers be running scared, but future innovators would think twice before stepping into this legal minefield. Plus, anyone who wrote about such companies favorably, or wrote positive articles about users of their products, or recommended that people do such activities, would be liable.

Thankfully, the opposition to IICA was overwhelming, including such large companies as Yahoo, Verizon, Texas Instruments, Google, Intel, Sun Microsystems and MCI, as well as constitutional watchdogs like EFF and the American Library Association. It didn't hurt that Hatch decided to also use the bill to harp against the evils of downloadable pornography, always the last tactic of a desperate politician. Then again, perhaps it was a ruse. "There's also a theory that INDUCE was a red herring put out there to distract attention away from PDEA while they push that thing through," says Kevin Arnold, founder of San Francisco's Independent Online Distribution Alliance (a digital music distributor for indie artists and labels) and the Noise Pop Festival.

In any event, downloading--legal or otherwise--isn't going away, even with such heavy-handed attempts to terrorize the participants.

What we have in the meantime is a terrible PR move that could send innocent people to jail, do harm to the economy, stunt future technological growth and divert the Justice Department's attention from more important matters. "Everyone waves their hands in the air and says, 'Piracy bad, piracy bad!' and expects to pass anything they want," Schultz says. "We have to try to hold Congress to a standard that they need to pass the laws that they want to pass."

And that means leaving you, your fast-forward button and your legit "Let's Get Retarded" download alone.

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