Informed P2P User Act Hearing

On 3/5/2009, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) introduced the Informed P2P User Act. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the bill today.

Here's an excerpt from Marc Rotenberg's testimony (Rotenberg is the Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center):

In the consideration of this bill, it is important to understand that P2P programs are used for a wide variety of function from the sharing of music to Internet-based telephony as well as scientific research. Even the military makes use of P2P networks. The technique is also important in countries where Internet censorship is a threat.

In the most generic sense, a P2P network is a technical description, much like saying a telephone network or the Internet. It is no intrinsic application, other than architecture that allows nodes to exchange information equally with other nodes in the network. Some Internet scholars have observed that this architecture reflects the collaboration among individuals that has helped spur the growth of the Internet. Professor Yochai Benkler refers to this as "Commons Based Peer Production."

No doubt part of the bill aims to discourage the use of file sharing techniques that may infringe copyright as well as making users vulnerable to certain types of inadvertent file sharing. But there is some risk that the bill would also discourage the use of file sharing techniques that do not raise such concerns. More generally, it appears to be posting a warning sign on a very wide variety of applications that most likely have little to do with the sponsor’s concern.

Read more about it at "H.R. 1319 Wants You to Know When You're Sharing Files, but Will Drown You in Pop-Ups" and "P2P Bill Could Regulate Web Browsers, FTP Clients."

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