Unintended Consequences: P2P 'Warning' Law Could Impact Browsers, FTP

from the politicians-who-don't-understand-technology dept

We discussed recently how entertainment industry lobbyists have been pushing this story about how P2P software needs to be regulated to prevent gov’t data from leaking, incorrectly blaming the software for user error. So, of course, it’s no surprise that legislation has been introduced that tries to force any P2P software used for transferring files from one computer to another to include a big warning and require the user to give “informed consent” when installing the software and every time it’s used. Yes, every time it’s used. This is a bad idea for a variety of reasons. Has it occurred to anyone crafting such a bill that when you pop up such a notice and require “consent” every single time software is used, most people will just ignore it? But, more importantly, as Declan McCullagh points out, the wording of the bill suggests that this “notice and consent” solution would apply to lots and lots of products, including browsers, FTP clients and backup software. Tons of software these days involves transferring files between two computers. This is, of course, symptomatic of legislation being written and introduced by people who don’t understand the technology. They think that software to transfer files is limited to things like LimeWire or BitTorrent, not recognizing that it’s a core part of the internet itself.

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Comments on “Unintended Consequences: P2P 'Warning' Law Could Impact Browsers, FTP”

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Emanuele Cipolla (user link) says:

Re: so

>will they just add this to the IP stack or something?

That’s not very likely to be a successful implementation of this concept. Well, maybe big players like Apple and Microsoft
would adhere and start messing with their TCP/IP stacks, while free and/or open source operating system would simply bash any such effort. This smells to me like sort of a cybercop userland application the average Windows/MacOS user should not be able to deinstall. Should this be the case, I would immediately get a copy of one of these pieces of crap and write about one or more ways to circumvent the problem – and I know I would not be alone.

R. Miles says:


Techdirt didn’t post anything about the dispute between No Script and AdBlock add-ons, but this does have an extremely small reference to the topic at hand.

If it wasn’t for blogs announcing this “war”, I would have never been aware one add-on was affecting another to the point the effectiveness was being halted.

Make no mistake, I’m against this bill 100%, because Vista’s UAC is already bad enough. Having another invasive action window is just going to push me over the edge.
(yes, I can turn of UAC, but if using IE, that’s a BAD idea)

Given all this info within the past week, it’s quite apparent the article hit the point that users are completely ignorant of what the software is doing (whether clueless in general or behind-the-scenes actions making it oblivious).

However, there is no solution to the problem. A forced dialog box? Hell, even IE gives users a notification bar/window, which often gets ignored (re: install of IE8 making it the default browser or ActiveX install requirement).

Software has become complicated, over burdened, and confusing even to some with advanced computer skills.

I guess the old saying “Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS)” no longer applies.

So this legislation isn’t surprising to me. I don’t expect it to pass, but rue the day when it does.

Because this will only lead politicians to make even more bold moves to pass into law.

Education is key, but no one really offers it anymore.

fogbugzd says:

Is there very much software that would be exempt?

Considering that the computer has become primarily a communications device, I think it would be a rare piece of software that did not fall under this law. Perhaps Solitaire would be exempt, but not if the user is on a thin client and pulling the game off a server.

Does this mean that Microsoft would have to turn off automatic update? It is transferring files between computers, so the language of the bill would require the user to consent before every update. In fact, just booting up Windows or any other OS would probably require a whole string of notices to be clicked through.

Bettawrekonize (profile) says:

The entertainment industry shouldn’t care about government information being leaked. This is just another example of industry using bogus logic to promote their own agenda. They always try to claim that some policy is somehow best for the people, etc… even though that policy just so happens to be in the best interest of the industry. Then the media buys into the bogus industry logic and everyone buys it hook, line, and sinker because the industry manipulates everything to make their lie look true.

Bettawrekonize (profile) says:

Seriously, ask yourself, what does the entertainment industry care if government information is leaked? Why should they care? Is the entertainment industry conspiring with the government and they don’t want anyone to find out? I doubt it. To say that the entertainment industry would otherwise actually care is nonsense, they are self interested, they don’t care about anything else.

Buzz says:


Because we all know how effective Vista’s UAC was…


Annoymous says:

H.R. 1319

Here’s an email I have sent every congress member on the committee that is currently looking at it.

Dear Sir;

Dear Ma’am;

I am looking at this bill H.R. 1319 that was introduced into this session of congress and is currently in the House Committee of Energy and Commerce. This bill is troubling on several aspects. To begin with the software it is proposed to cover includes every piece of software designed to contact another machine on the Internet. This would include not only Limewire, Bittorrent, but also Outlook (Email Client), Internet Explorer, Firefox, (Web browsers), also included in the proposed legislation, would be multi-player games such as Halo, World of Warcraft, Microsoft Hearts, Programs such as ICQ, Microsoft Instant Messenger and other IM clients. To boil it down, it would require notice and consent every time any program was used to contact a web server, be it for keeping a high score table, or to download the latest patch for a program. I really hope that this is the intention of said legislation. I have a high opinion of most members of congress and do no think that they would make an error like this intentionally.

I’ll give you a brief description of how the Internet works so that you will have the understanding of what it is that is being proposed to be regulated.

Computer A connects to the isp, via either broadband or dial up, Computer A then requests from the isp the location of Computer B, Computer B could be any where in the world, with this address that Computer A requests, it then contacts Computer B, in this case http://www.google.com, and in doing so it triggers the notice and consent requirement of this legislation. Every time a computer talks to another one, there is data transfered, contacting Google’s web server, triggers this due to the fact that the images, and web page are stored on Google’s web server and your web browser has to download it so that it can show you the given web page. Every time an email client downloads a message, it is contacting another machine and as such would trigger the notice and consent function of this legislation. Each message is stored as a separate file on the email server, so you would be clicking consent continuously if you receive a large number of emails like I do.

From the reading I have done, it is obvious this legislation is a over-reaction to poor system and network policies and lack of enforcement of said policies on government computers. I have hope that members of congress would not pass a bill to punish and annoy the average American while using their computer because the federal government does not know how to configure their systems so as to stop information from leaking out.

To make things easy for you, I have included a link to the plain text of the bill. Be aware that clicking on this link would subject you to the notice and consent as outlined in this bill.


Anonymous Coward says:

One question I have, even if this bill passed into law, its still a United States law. You can’t enforce this on a software writer from any other countries where I can just download their software via the web. So whats to stop me from moving my use of software that would be effected by this over to software written by someone in another country? Am I wrong in this logic?

Anon says:

But think of all the jobs this bill would create?

Sure, you’re all thinking of how annoying it will be for the end user, but think about all the extra IT staff who will be required to babysit webservers 24/7 because they are no longer able to just auto-restart if something goes wrong. Someone will have to be there on had to click “yes” to the confirmation dialog when the serving software starts. Also, there will have to be more hardware bought, because you would no longer be able to just use a virtual desktop connection to log into your server, because again, you have to click the confirmation dialog before it starts up.

On a more serious note of annoyance however, I just had a brief think about how many notices I would have to click JUST TO BOOT MY COMPUTER. Lets see… windows clock goes online to check the time. I have a widget on the sidebar for the following: internet usage (goes online to ISP), software status on my server, the weather. Thats 4 confirmation boxes I would have to click just to boot windows… yay… Thank God I’m not an American 😀 Also speaking of my server, I would have to plug in a K/B and screen to it, and use said hardware, anytime I had to restart it because, as mentioned above, I would have to confirm the virtual desktop software before I could use it to connect from this PC to the server.

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