Congress Moving Forward On 'P2P' Warning Law

from the unintended-consequences,-anyone? dept

Back in May, we wrote about a bill being proposed by Congress, at the urging of the entertainment industry, to force any kind of file sharing app to put certain ridiculous restrictions on the app, such as requiring it to put up a big warning sign every time you use it for sharing files, and requiring the user to "consent" to use the software. Public Knowledge notes that the bill is back in action and going through the markup process, with little in the way of complaints or warnings from the many, many software developers this will impact. Public Knowledge outlines many of the problems with the bill:
  1. Legislating Software Design: The bill is aimed at a specific technology and kind of application instead of simple non-tech-focussed consumer protection and disclosure principles. Instead it's aimed at legislating the design and workings of common software. It's the exact kind of thing that has all kinds of unintended and unforeseeable consequences.
  2. Over / Under Inclusive Definition: No matter how narrow the definition of "covered file-sharing program" may seem, it's going to include more and less than is intended or desirable. Over inclusive: bill would include basic operating systems like Windows 7 and Mac OS X that enable file sharing; iTunes shares media files as well. Under inclusive: bill would not include applications that simply upload the entirety of a user's hard drive to the web.

  3. "Initial Activation" Needs Clarification: The amendment, just like the previous bill, requires the software to notify the user at installation and "initial activation of a file sharing function." The problem remains that there are a number of interpretations of what this means, here are three: A. The first time an application is installed and launched; B. Every time the application is launched; or C. Every time the feature is enabled. Unless the language is made clear, developers not wanting to incur penalties will err on the side of notice, which means the most notifications.

  4. Applies to Software Already Written: Software that has already been written and is still being distributed, but not maintained by a developer or manufacturer may fall prey to the provisions of this bill. Unless otherwise exempted, this would require developers to update their older software at great cost, unless they wanted incur penalty of law.

  5. Interferes with User and Administrator Choice: This bill would require a fundamental change in how much software operates. Users, especially system administrators, make informed choices about the applications that will meet their needs -- especially those that "just run" without user interaction. In many cases, how an application installs, launches, and operates behind the scenes is part of their decision, and this bill would interfere with how they run their systems.

This bill is bad news, and it's yet another attempt by the entertainment industry to get Congress to start slapping specific restrictions on any software it doesn't like.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Charlie, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 5:34pm

    The bill is "HR 1319"

    It was introduced by someone from the "State of IOUs and can't balance a budget" (California) by Mary Bono Mack.

    Contact your reps and tell them to not support it:
    http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml

    The Co-Sponsors are:
    Donna Christensen [D-VI]
    John Barrow [D-GA12]
    Joe Barton [R-TX6]
    Marsha Blackburn [R-TN7]
    Dan Boren [D-OK2]
    Ken Calvert [R-CA44]
    Kathy Castor [D-FL11]
    Ben Chandler [D-KY6]
    Travis Childers [D-MS1]
    William Clay [D-MO1]
    Emanuel Cleaver [D-MO5]
    Nathan Deal [R-GA9]
    Diana DeGette [D-CO1]
    Joe Donnelly [D-IN2]
    Anna Eshoo [D-CA14]
    Charles Gonzalez [D-TX20]
    Barton Gordon [D-TN6]
    Alan Grayson [D-FL8]
    Parker Griffith [D-AL5]
    Baron Hill [D-IN9]
    Darrell Issa [R-CA49]
    Jesse Jackson [D-IL2]
    Steve Kagen [D-WI8]
    Carolyn Maloney [D-NY14]
    Jim Matheson [D-UT2]
    Betty McCollum [D-MN4]
    Frank Pallone [D-NJ6]
    Ed Perlmutter [D-CO7]
    George Radanovich [R-CA19]
    John Sarbanes [D-MD3]
    David Scott [D-GA13]
    Zachary Space [D-OH18]
    Bart Stupak [D-MI1]
    Betty Sutton [D-OH13]
    John Tanner [D-TN8]
    Anthony Weiner [D-NY9]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 6:34pm

    So?....

    That's what I like about OpenSource software... Any garbage thrown in, can be recompiled right out! ..Screw the entertainment mafia. Their services are no longer required.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Tony E (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:11pm

    Just contacted my rep

    I just used washingtonwatch.com to find the email for my rep and sent her a message about it. Hopefully this doesn't go through, we don't need the RIAA legislating our software. As far as I'm concerned, we don't need the RIAA at all (as I'm sure most of the rest of the Techdirt community feels).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:48pm

    Pretty soon we'll have a software Czar that's just as corrupt as our FDA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    captn trips, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 10:10pm

    eff the man!

    you know, this is one of the things that I hate about Dems I know this is totally bipartisan but it seems to me that they favor Hollywood and the favor is returned. Which is fine, unless it leads to the DMCA (Clinton) and legislation like this.. not to mention ACTA (which I cant mention without being Fedex'ed to gitmo )

    I mean the Repubs are worse don't get me wrong, but this underscores corruption on both sides of the "isle". At least they can work together on taking bribes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 4:09am

    Err, wouldn't number 4 fall under the "ex post facto" provision of the constitution?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 5:55am

    Warning

    Updating your World of Warcraft client may subject you to the results of absurd legislative practices driven by systemic cronyism.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 6:26am

    Applies to Software Already Written: Software that has already been written and is still being distributed, but not maintained by a developer or manufacturer may fall prey to the provisions of this bill. Unless otherwise exempted, this would require developers to update their older software at great cost, unless they wanted incur penalty of law.

    So how would this apply to old versions of open source stuff developed by many hands - and itself kicking around on P2P networks.

    They should try it on themselves.

    How a bout a LAW that says all LAWS have to contain warnings (about something or other) and this has to apply to all existing laws.

    Your congress would have to spend the next fifty years updating its own back catalog!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 6:42am

    Re:

    as if these guys actually care about the Constitution

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Griff (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 6:43am

    I can see a bright side to this.

    If when I uploaded a file I had to jump through hoops declaring I had the rights to do so, no-one downstream could be held liable. The file sharing site could claim they shared it in good faith, and all downloaders could also say they had reason to believe it was safe.

    There would only be one single act of piracy to go after and the RIAA would only get to claim damages for a single event.
    Their idiotic existence would come down to chasing a TOR protected uploader for the rest of their miserable lives.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Saleh, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 7:32am

    Just bury it

    As asinine as it is that the US government is wasting resources on this, there's a simple way to route around it - since no one reads EULAs anyway, just bury it in there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Ray Trygstad (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    I know: just download the software from any other nation on earth.

    They just don't get that the tubes on the Interweb thingy completely ignore national borders. The law would be a complete waste of paper, ink and electrons.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Martin, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 8:45am

    FIRE YOUR CONGRESSMAN....

    What about: Require your congressman to have us - the voters - having to consent with his voting decision.

    Even better: FIRE YOUR CONGRESSMAN.... Since we have very effective - and more accurate/informed than the cm's - online voting/polls (like the one on Techdirt) THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA should take control from the corrupted, unscrupulous, selfish, deceptive and egoistic Congress.

    Hey Barack, want to fix the economy? Move congress on Wikipedia-like CMS with voting ability - I am sure you will find GREAT SOFTWARE THIS CONGRESS IS TRYING TO KILL on Source Forge - FOR FREE...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Oct 7th, 2009 @ 6:14am

    Re: I can see a bright side to this.

    Yet another thing I want to see passed into law .....

    Take Gun - Shoot Foot

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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