Last month, insiders in Washington believed that the Induce Act, which
would outlaw technology that could contribute to copyright
infringement, was history. According to music activist organization
Downhill Battle, a
year-old organization dedicated to bringing balance to a debate often
dominated by the RIAA and large music labels, this is no longer the
case. "We were told by people on [Capitol] Hill that it is less
likely that the bill will come to the floor by itself and have a nice
debate and vote," says Nicholas Reville, Downhill Battle co-founder.
"More likely, the Induce Act is going to be snuck through a back door
in legislative procedure. The only supporters in any industry or
interest group are in Hollywood. From their perspective, [the Induce
Act] is not going to happen if it gets full airing."
To prevent this from happening, Downhill Battle has been carrying
the protest to the masses of people who use technology and consume
intellectual property. Their first major effort was Save the iPod, which encouraged
people who love their music players to send faxes to their senators
via the Internet. Thousands did just that.
The Halloween of copyright acts
Like the evil Jason, slasher of the Halloween horror movies, the
Induce Act refuses to die the oh-so-deserving death of really bad
legislation. Because the powers promoting the passage of the Induce Act
have moved underground, Downhill Battle has identified legislators
who might have the influence, individually or together, to stop the
"stealth" passage of the Act. Reville puts the challenge
succinctly: "We have to think strategically."
To that end, Downhill Battle identified 12 influential legislators
most likely to be able to derail, or at least bring into the light,
the debate on the Induce Act. The list includes Senators Ernest
Hollings (D-S.C.) (infamous for his own rotten copyright legislation), John
McCain (R-Ariz.), and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). They designed Save Betamax to recruit
volunteers to stage a "call in" on September 14 (that's
today). They expected about 500 people. "We would
have been happy with 1,000 to 2,000 people," says
Reville. "It's great to see that people care so much about this -- that
it can pull their attention away from an extremely partisan
presidential race. This isn't partisan at all."
At press time, more than 4,200 volunteers had signed up at Save Betamax
to call three of the 12 legislators at specific times during the day.
Throughout the day, approximately every 20 seconds, the phone
will ring in one of the 12 legislators' offices. On the line will be
a volunteer who opposes the Induce Act.
"We have to show [influential legislators] we are watching," says
Reville. "[Legislators] can't just sneak [the Induce Act] through to
please their donors."