Bill may bolster copyright penalties

Jessica Dreschel

Tech companies beware! A new law may mean companies could be held responsible if users commit copyright infringement.

The Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004, or Induce Act for short, was originally proposed in June 2004, said Constance Hawke, counsel consultant of University Counsel.

Producers of blank CDs, videotapes and technology like iPods and MP3 players could be held responsible if consumers use products to listen to or view media illegally.

If the Induce Act is passed, penalties for copyright infringement could become more severe, Hawke said. Internet service providers may need to keep a closer eye on what their users are doing.

“The university would have to be the police. We don’t want to do that,” Hawke said.

Also, the law could translate into taxes on blank CDs, DVDs and video tapes, Greg Seibert, director of Security and Compliance said. Canada puts a 40-cent tax on these products. Tax money goes directly to copyright protection agencies and then to artists themselves, Seibert added.

So what happens to students who illegally download music or movies?

First time offenders lose Internet access until they have proven they have removed illegal files from their hard drive, Hawke said.

Multiple offenders must appear before Judicial Affairs, Hawke said. She said there has been an increase in student offenders in the past six months.

Some students listen to music the legal way. Sophomore art history major John Foley said he uploads music from purchased CDs to his computer and then to his iPod.

Many download illegally.

Streetsboro High School senior Dave DiCicco said all of his 200 songs were downloaded from KaZaa, a popular file-sharing program.

“As long as they don’t come and take my iPod away from me, I don’t care what the laws are,” DiCicco said.

The Induce Act was read twice on June 22, 2004, and then referred to the Senate committee. Nothing has happened since then, but the bill may be re-examined at the 109th Congress, Hawke said.

There is a history of similar laws, Seibert said.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, among other things, makes it illegal to provide information to circumvent digital encryption or copyright blocks, Seibert said.

This is a problem because colleagues cannot share some aspects of research, Seibert said.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office’s summary, the act places “limitations on the liability of online service providers for copyright infringement when engaging in certain types of activities.”

That is good news for Internet service providers like Kent State.

“Certain types of activities,” include filing with the national copyright office and appointing someone to handle complaints of copyright infringement, Hawke said. If Kent State fulfills the act’s requirements, it is not held responsible for how the students use the Internet, Hawke said.

Contact academic technology reporter Jessica Dreschel at [email protected].