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Why Linspire 5.0 may be outlawed in the United States

"Whoever offers to the public a peer-to-peer product... shall be liable as an infringer."

- Proposed text of the "INDUCE Act"

In secret backroom meetings throughout this week, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are deciding the fate of many technology businesses, including Linspire. My sources have provided proposed text to me from the INDUCE Act (which I quoted only a portion of to conceal their identity), which certain Senators are attempting to sneak through passage to appease media company contributors. Depending on the final text, it's possible the upcoming Linspire 5.0 would be outlawed in the United States.

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In the past, I have spent time in Washington DC and met personally with many members of the judiciary committee and their chiefs of staff who oversee copyright law. During my visit, I was campaigning for fair use and online storage of personal CD collections. This makes sense because it encourages people to buy more CDs and is a positive way to encourage music purchasing, but my words fell on deaf ears. However, within minutes of my meetings, the text of my upcoming public testimony as well as my personal conversations were relayed from certain senators' offices directly to the RIAA, the enforcement organization of the music companies. It was a disheartening experience because it became clear that some senators had greater allegiances to their lobbyists than the people they were voted to represent. Major media companies spend huge sums of money to keep legislators doing their duty...and it shows.

The chairman of the judiciary committee is Senator Orrin Hatch, and in that role he largely decides which proposed laws make it through the committee to a full Senate vote. His office is trying to push through Senate Bill S. 2560, known as the "INDUCE Act." Since the courts have ruled that file-sharing software is legal, media companies have been desperately looking for a different way to halt P2P (peer-to-peer). But since P2P is now in a wide range of products and using P2P requires hardware and software, it's impossible to outlaw P2P devices or software without also outlawing the wide range of products that have legitimate uses. This brings me back to Linspire.

Early this year, we announced that Linspire had begun experimenting with how we could use P2P software to improve our business. Since that time, we have distributed

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beta copies of our software to our insiders and tens of thousands of copies of Linspire to new users. All told, we've moved about 25 terabytes of Linux software over P2P systems [UPDATE: As of 2/23/05 Linspire has delivered more than 40 terabytes of software over P2P systems. This represents 70,000 copies of Linspire software.]. Even now, you can get LinspireLive! for free via Bittorrent, this gives anyone the opportunity to try Linspire. P2P has worked so well and has been so cost-effective that we are planning to expand our use of P2P. Linspire 5.0, which we are working on now for release later this year will be the first operating system to have P2P built right in by default. There will be no need for users to install any new software. This will allow us to use P2P to ship not just software, but large legitimate music collections and movies as well.

But Linspire 5.0 may not be legal if the INDUCE Act is passed, since it could be used to "induce" file sharing. And it's not just Linspire that will be affected, since a wide range of both hardware and software devices could be interpreted to induce file sharing. When I started, the music industry wanted to outlaw MP3 and portable music players, but the law did not support them. If the INDUCE Act had been law back then, we may never have seen the MP3 market bloom as it has. They would have surely attempted to use this law to stop MP3. I encourage you to find out where your representative stands on the INDUCE Act, and do what you can to prevent it. Visit to send a fax to your congressman and find other easy steps you can take to help prevent the INDUCE Act from becoming law. Linspire 5.0 is depending on you!

-- Michael

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