Gone are those innocent days at the turn of the century when the worst accusations being leveled at peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks were that they facilitated the unauthorized swapping of Metallica songs among tech-savvy teenage boys. The Informed P2P User Act (HR 1319), written and sponsored by Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-CA, aims to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of information on a computer without first providing notice and obtaining consent from the owner or authorized user of the computer. David Sohn, senior policy counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, concurs that the definition of P2P technology in the bill is broad and may have unintended consequences. Sohn says the broadness of the language may also have a chilling effect on the development of software.
content news 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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