By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — Is the iPod endangered?
Apple's sleek digital audio device is one of the most successful tech toys, selling more than 3 million units since November 2001.
But its future, with that of other new tech gadgets, could be in trouble if a controversial congressional bill passes. That's according to opponents of the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act in the Senate. It would make operators of media-swap networks such as Kazaa and Grokster liable for users' actions. It also would make it easier for entertainment companies to sue tech firms for copyright infringement.
Opponents say the language is so broad it could apply to makers of MP3 players, such as iPod, and CD and DVD recorders, as well as to media organizations that give consumers tips on using digital content.
The recording and movie industries support the bill to help curb piracy.
But the tech industry is worried. Internet search giants Google and Yahoo, chipmaker Intel, Internet service provider Verizon, auctioneer eBay, Web site operator Cnet Networks and phone company MCI are among 42 companies and groups who signed a letter that will be delivered Tuesday to bill author Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, requesting hearings on the issue.
Two copyright bills were passed by a voice vote in late June without hearings, which is why the tech industry is concerned.
Hundreds of bills are introduced every year, and many never make it to the Senate floor. What makes the Induce Act more viable are its high-profile co-sponsors. Besides Hatch and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., there's also Senate majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. Other co-sponsors are Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatch has been a critic of file-sharing. Last year, when speaking of network users trading copyrighted material, he said: "I'm all for destroying their machines."
The bill follows an April 2003 court win by Grokster in the West Indies and StreamCast Networks of Tennessee that said users — rather than file-sharing networks — were to blame for infringing copyrights. That decision is being appealed.
Copyright bill poses threat to iPod's future
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