Got a favorite poem you'd like to share with friends on one of the online services? Beware: you could get your service provider busted. A draft version of proposed Federal legislation makes bulletin boards responsible for copyright infringement on their pieces of the Net. In other words, if you misappropriated something while using, say, America Online, the company would have to pay. Needless to say, bulletin-board owners aren't happy. "It's like making the highway responsible for reckless drivers," protests Kent Stuckey, general counsel of CompuServe. On the other side: bulletin boards "are profiting" from the work of artists, says Susan Mann, attorney for the National Music Publishers' Association. "They've got to know that they have some liability for it." Arguments will go public later this month with hearings in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington.
Just how fast has the Internet grown? Consider these stats from the OpenMarket software company: in 1969 the number of hosts (i.e. institutions providing Net portals) had peaked at four. Today, there are 3.2 million hosts. Another big change: commerce in cyberspace. The number of registered commercial domains surpassed 17,000 this summer. Nearly 30% are in California.