Proposed Copyright Law Could Spell Trouble For Apple

A proposed law now being considered in the U.S. Senate could open up companies like Apple to copyright infringement suits from music labels, USA TODAY reported Monday. The bill, which could impose hefty fines, is being criticized as too broad and would open up music player manufacturers as well as the news media who simply give advice to consumers to multi-million dollar lawsuits.

USA Today reports that if the proposed Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act, currently in review by the Senate, passes, the bill "would make operators of media-swap networks such as Kazaa and Grokster liable for usersi actions. It also would make it easier for entertainment companies to sue tech firms for copyright infringement."

Opponents of the bill say its language is too broad and 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.

"We feel this bill adds potential liability to any innovator," says Don Whiteside of Intelis Corporate Technology Group told USA TODAY. "We view this as a very significant change in the copyright law, and weire very concerned."

Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said companies like Apple could end up paying fines as much as US$150,000 a song if the bill becomes law in its current form.

While the recording and movie industries support the bill to help curb piracy, 42 companies and groups including Google, Yahoo, Intel, eBay, Cnet Networks and MCI signed a letter voicing their concerns of the bill. That letter will be delivered Tuesday to the billis main authors, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vet.

Opposition to the bill is slowly picking up steam. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched a large online campaign to educate consumers, as well as the group Down Hill, which has launched, encouraging visitors to fax senators urging a "no" vote.

The next step for the bill is a series of hearings in Capitol Hill. Those hearings could come in the next few weeks or the next few months. It is expected the bill, which could be changed many times between now and its final form, could be voted on in the Senate by the end of the year.