A group of companies has submitted an alternative to the proposed Induce Act that would protect companies such as Apple from being sued over the copyright infringements of their customers.

The alternative Induce Act specifies the grounds under which a firm would be found to be encouraging copyright infringement. Verizon associate general counsel Sarah Deutsch told Associated Press: "Under this kind of test, you wouldn't find the manufacturer or TiVo or an ISP or the Apple iPod liable. It would be much less likely you would have frivolous lawsuits."

The Induce Act, which is currently going through Congress, would make companies liable if their software or technology allows users to violate copyright laws. If it becomes law, entertainment firms will be able to sue file-sharing companies such as Grokster and Morpheus.

The current state of the law means that such companies are not held responsible for the copyright infringements made possible by their services. Earlier this week A US federal appeals court ruled in favour of peer-to-peer software makers, stating that the companies behind the services are not liable for copyright infringement due to the actions of their users.

However, critics point out that in its current form the Induce Act could be used as the basis of a copyright infringement case against a company like Apple on grounds that owners of the iPod copy music, perhaps without permission.

Deutsch said: "The way it's written it would basically grant a hunting license to every copyright owner to go after companies. Even if you're an innocent company, you're going to be forced to go through lengthy court proceedings to prove your innocence."

This week the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed 896 new lawsuits against file traders using P2P services. The total includes 744 new lawsuits against users of a variety of P2P services, including Kazaa, eDonkey and Grokster. The RIAA filed an additional 152 lawsuits against people already identified in the litigation process who declined RIAA offers to settle their cases, according to the RIAA.