Curtailing Unintended File Sharing: May Take an Act of Congress by ProQuest


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    Curtailing Unintended
    File Sharing
    May Take an Act of Congress
          one are those innocent days at the turn of the century      updated software, LimeWire 5, “does not share any file
    G     when the worst accusations being leveled at peer-to-peer
    (P2P) file-sharing networks were that they facilitated the
                                                                      of any type without explicit permission from the user.”
                                                                      Still, the subcommittee seemed undeterred in forging
    unauthorized swapping of Metallica songs among tech-savvy         ahead with the bill.
    teenage boys. The interminable hullabaloo over Napster               One major front of opposition to the Informed P2P User
    seemed like ancient history in early May when the House           Act has come from a coalition of technology industry groups
    Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection          who say I the act, as written, might go too far. In a letter
    convened a hearing to discuss the Informed P2P User Act (H.R.     addressed to Bono Mack, four trade groups—the Computer &
    1319), which was crafted in the wake of the discovery of          Communications Industry Association, TechAmerica,
    documents on P2P networks that raise strong privacy and even      NetCoalition, and the Internet Commerce Coalition—asserted
    national security concerns.                                       that the bill “would broadly apply to many different
       The act, written and sponsored by Rep. Mary Bono Mack,         applications and Web sites that appear to be beyond the
    R-Calif., aims to “prevent the inadvertent disclosure of          intended scope of the bill.”
    information on a computer … without first providing notice           The coalition contends that the bill’s definition of
    and obtaining consent from the owner or authorized user of        “peer-to-peer file sharing program” could be interpreted to
    the computer.” Congress seemed particularly alarmed by the        apply to email providers, internet access servers, instant
    discovery of a set of blueprints for President Obama’s official   messaging applications, social networking sites, cloud
    helicopter, Marine One, that were found on a P2P network and      computing services, space shifting technologies, and web
    an investigation by the TODAY show that uncovered                 browsers. The authors of the letter are concerned that the
    thousands of tax returns, student loan applications, and credit   legislation will cause undue burden on both the designers
    reports that had inadvertently found their way online.            and the users of these technologies, since “the vast majority
       Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., spoke out       of applications that utilize distributed computers to deliver
    about such privacy and security concerns at the hearing on        or assist in the delivery of content do not contain the kind
    May 5. “Too often,” he said, “when consumers download             of recursive file-sharing features that the legislation seems
    [P2P] programs onto their computers with the intent of sharing    intended to address.”
    and downloading certain files on the network, they are               David Sohn, senior policy counsel for the Center for
    unaware that they are also sharing other files they otherwise     Democracy and Technology, concurs that the definition
    want to keep private.”                   
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