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P2P Tech Companies Say Restrictive Bill is Unnecessary

14 Oct, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

Marty Lafferty, CEO of the Distributed Computing Industry Association, a trade group representing 150 P2P technology companies, said a Congressional bill that could interfere with peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing is “unnecessary” and that government regulation concerning P2P isn’t the answer to illegal file-sharing or identity theft.

The bill, Informed P2P User Act (H.R. 1319), would make it illegal for P2P programs to access any files without first notifying the computer’s owner and obtaining his or her consent.

“From the DCIA’s perspective, even one instance of identity theft as a result of file sharing is one too many,” he said. “But to put the underlying issue in perspective, ID theft costs U.S. businesses and consumers over $50 billion in an estimated 15 million cases per year.” He said the Department of Justice has prosecuted only two cases associated with P2P file-sharing.

He said that DCIA member companies have “turned their software inside out to address inadvertent sharing once this potential threat was identified.”

“Inadvertently clicking on ‘reply all’ in an e-mail application actually poses a far greater risk than inadvertently converting a file to a torrent for sharing by means of a BitTorrent-based software program for example,” he said.

Lafferty said that the bill may set a precedent that “begins the descent down a slippery slope toward undesirable Internet regulation,” and may be a way to attack neutral P2P software, such as Limewire and BitTorrent, that has often used to illegally share movies and music.

The intent of the bill is to protect the content on your computer, according to one of the bill’s creators, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif.

“Too many people aren’t aware of the risks associated with using popular peer-to-peer file-sharing programs,” Mack said of the bill. “When users login to these P2P programs, they could be inadvertently sharing all of their personal information with everyone else on the network, including tax returns, financial records, personal messages and family photos.

“The problem of inadvertent file-sharing has gone on for too long and has already compromised millions of personal files, in addition to our national security. The Informed P2P User Act will make users more aware and keep them from unknowingly sharing their private information with complete strangers online.”

A subcommittee under the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing regarding the bill in late September and is currently putting together its report on the bill.

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