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What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List and the Hatch's Hit List Archives.
Today on Hatch's Hit List: VoIP
Voice over IP is probably one of the most interesting developing technologies, and perhaps one of the most revolutionary ones. It is fascinating for many reasons. Even as Congress, the FCC, various state utility commissions, the courts and others battle over how VoIP is to be regulated, if at all, entrepreneurs and hackers are developing new ways of utilizing VoIP. These innovators are changing the ways we can interact with the humble telephone and the results will likely reverberate in our society in ways we can hardly imagine.
One trivial example: I've been using Vonage for nearly two years now. One of the nice things it does is provide me an email notification of voicemail. One option for that email notification is that I can have the actual recording sent to my email:
Voicemail Attachments With Email can be a very powerful tool. When you activate Voicemail Attachments With Email, we copy your new phone messages as .wav files. Then we attach these files to your email notification messages. Turn this feature on and you can play back your messages through your PC without even accessing your voicemail system. You also forward your voice messages to anyone else via email or save them to your hard drive. It's another great way that Vonage puts you in control.Indeed. Such capabilities will soon become common place. There are even interesting variations. Some have reported that Vonage has dropped voice messages into their voicemail box without actually placing a call. This could be very useful. Why not have a "voicemail" list that would allow someone to send one message to multiple phone numbers? Or why have to call, when you can send an audio file straight to someone's voicemail, which they might then download instead of listen to via phone, or both.
Which, of course, brings us back to the INDUCE Act. Inevitably, some of these developing and interesting uses for VoIP are going to lead to copyright infringement. Why is the attached .wav file necessarily a phone call? VoIP is so cheap in many cases, why not use it as a streaming radio station (which might merely be a form of conference call)? All these interesting and innovative uses will likely make our telephones even more useful than before. However, how much innovation will Hollywood permit in the development of unique VoIP applications if the INDUCE Act passes?
VoIP is already facing numerous regulatory challenges. Do we really want to add Hollywood to the regulatory hurdles VoIP must surmount?
Want to know more about the INDUCE Act?
Please see LawMeme's well-organized index to everything I've written on the topic, including Hatch's Hit List: The LawMeme Reader's Guide to Ernie Miller's Guide to the INDUCE Act.
Tracked on July 23, 2004 05:22 PM