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Sunday, August 08, 2004

DanB at 10:59 AM [url]:

INDUCE Act letter to my senator

At a conference Friday I heard a rumor that there might be a vote on the INDUCE Act (S. 2560) during August. Being during a recess, this would be a way to avoid hearings. I don't know the legislative process well enough to know the details of this claim, but I do know the Act is a bad thing for technology and society. Just to make sure that my voice is heard before it's too late, I have sent off letters to my senators. We all should contact our senators and let them know how we feel. Do it now before it's too late.

Here is what I sent to Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts:

Senator Kennedy,

As a long time resident of Newton, Massachusetts, you have been my Senator for many years. As a founding trustee of the Massachusetts Software Council, I have met you many times and briefed you on various technology topics. I am a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and recipient of numerous technology awards.

Back in the late 1970's I co-created VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet as we know them today, and have been known as an innovator for many years. You may recall that VisiCalc, and the personal computers it ran on, were not widely accepted as important for society when they first came out. It took years to prove ourselves.

I write you today to ask you to VOTE AGAINST S. 2560, the "Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004".

I believe that this Act would be harmful to society in general and innovation in particular. I believe that on balance this Act would even be harmful to the artists it is intended to protect. It will hurt the innovation, research and development that is so important to our country and especially our state. It will hamper huge, important industries, that are important to our country's economic and physical security, yet give little help to the much, much smaller business of entertainment.

Important as the enforcement of copyright laws are, both in protecting the rights of the creators and giving society its fair use, this Act is not an appropriate way to enforce those laws. The Act has an anti-innovation and anti-technology bias that is clear to people familiar with innovation, the adoption of technology by society, and litigation. It targets anybody connected with the creation, storage, transport, modification, or presentation of copyrighted material, and calls into constant question their alleged intent, be they librarians, tool builders (such as myself), communications engineers, or researchers. It not only throws out the baby with the bathwater, but also the tub and plumbing.

Why is copyright infringement chosen for tool creators' liability, and not murder, speeding, under-age drinking, or a host of other crimes? Copyright infringement is not a clear issue like those others, with fair use being an important component. If this is the "Repeal of Fair Use Act", and a repeal of the Betamax decision, it should say so.

This bill is another step that encourages the locking down of creative works that will rob the future of our culture. I have written about this issue in an essay in October 2001 available at http://www.bricklin.com/robfuture.htm. See also "How will the artists get paid?" at http://www.bricklin.com/artistspaid.htm.

Innovation is an important element to the advancement of society. Innovation is usually only understood in hindsight. "Reasonable people" frequently fail to foresee the benefits of innovation or understand the critical role played by various technologies in our society and fixate on what they think looks familiar and ignore the new. After all, visionaries are viewed, in hindsight, as being visionary because they have seen things before others did. This bill turns taking the chance that your vision may help society into an even more significant gamble. Saying it won't be misused is naive, and does not match past history with such laws. Proving you are right and that legal uses are the dominant reason for a tool, even if it is straightforward, is more than most small, innovative companies can bear. Small companies are a major driver for innovation and the jobs it brings.

We are having a hard enough time convincing promising, bright young people to become inventors and product developers rather than lawyers or investment bankers. Let us not add the threat of over-zealous litigation and potential jail time.

Copyright infringers have been caught, prosecuted, and convicted for years. This law is not the way to help.

There are many other problems with this bill. I would be happy to discuss it with you or any of your staff at your convenience.

Thank you for your time and hopefully for your vote against S. 2560.


Daniel Bricklin

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