Public Interest Peer-to-Peer

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Consumer-electronic makers and several public-interest groups have proposed an alternative to legislation that would impose tough new restrictions on Internet peer-to-peer file sharing of TV shows, movies and music.

The groups, which have fought to preserve consumers' access to innovative content distribution technologies is narrower in scope than the current proposal, named the "Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004."

The alternative proposal was sent to bill co-sponsors Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Specifically, the alternative would impose liability on any person who actively sells a computer program designed to engage in "indiscriminate, mass infringing distribution" of copyrighted works. Exempt from liability would be ISPs, venture capitalists, credit card companies, banks, advertising agencies, IT help desks, and others for providing routine services to consumer and librarians who make use of the software. Finally, the alternative proposal would also make clear that manufacture or distribution of peer-to-peer hardware or software products will not trigger punishment if the products can be used in ways that do not violate copyrights.

That provision would put into a law last week's court decision allowing peer-to-peer systems, even if copyright violations are possible, as long as the systems do not keep an centralized index of works users are making available.

Signing on to the proposal are the Consumer Electronics Association, the Home Recording Rights Coalition, Public Knowledge and the U.S. Internet Industry Association.

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