Hey look, here's a story on which we at Techdirt actually agree
with the RIAA. Shocking, I know. It appears that, for reasons that are unclear to just about everyone, the IT folks in the House of Representatives have banned the use of the perfectly legal and authorized music service Spotify
because it's P2P technology. According to a report at Politico:
"To help protect House data, our IT policy generally prohibits the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies while operating within the secure network," a spokesman for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer told POLITICO this week. "While Spotify is currently not authorized, the CAO has and will continue to work with outside vendors to enable the popular services that improve member communication capabilities."
Not surprisingly, this has led to complaints from Spotify, but also from the RIAA, which finds the whole thing preposterous
RIAA CEO Cary Sherman wrote to the Hill Tuesday to explain why Spotify shouldn't violate the House's IT policy and to lend a hand in getting the decision reversed: "These services are safe and secure, and assuring access to them not only respects the contractual relationship users may have with these services, but also achieves an important public policy goal of promoting legal, safe digital providers," Sherman wrote.
That's nice and all... though it's entirely possible the reason that there's a ban on P2P technology in the House is... due to the RIAA's own efforts in years past. You may recall that, the RIAA, MPAA and other copyright maximalists have pushed for Congressional hearings on just how evil P2P technology is, and why there need to be more laws about it. Ali Sternburg, at the DiscCo Project has the details
It may be symptomatic of Congress being susceptible to lobbyists' generally oversimplifying and misunderstanding complex technology. As EFF's Parker Higgins tweeted in response: "The years of indiscriminately vilifying p2p technology are now coming back to haunt the content industry." In particular, the policy may be a consequence of three hearings on filesharing in the House from 2007 to 2009, which received testimony criticizing filesharing: "Inadvertent File Sharing over Peer-to-Peer Networks" on July 24, 2007, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; "H.R. 2221, the Data Accountability and Protection Act and H.R. 1319, the Informed P2P User Act" on May 5, 2009, before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection; and "Inadvertent File Sharing over Peer-to-Peer Networks: How It Endangers Citizens and Jeopardizes National Security" on July 29, 2009, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This context suggests that maybe those hearings caused technophobic Congressmen to panic, leading to a regulation that is now mindlessly enforced as a part of House IT policy.
She admits this is not definitely why it's banned, but it does seem notable. Perhaps, next time, rather than vilifying broadly usable technology, the RIAA and others might recognize that it can actually be the solution to their challenges as well. Nah... that'll never happen.