Letter indicates that states have set sights on P-to-P

Peer-to-peer (P-to-P) file-swapping software makers could soon find themselves under closer legal scrutiny from the attorneys general of several U.S. states. A P-to-P industry advocacy group this week distributed a leaked draft copy of a letter apparently in the works from California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office, promising increased scrutiny of the risks to consumers of P-to-P software programs.

P-to-P software makers are accustomed to legal troubles, but so far most of the actions against them have come from industry groups representing content creators, such as the Motion Picture Association of America Inc. and the Recording Industry Association of America. Lockyer's letter, the text of which indicates that several state attorneys general are expected to jointly sign it, illustrates that state governments are considering exerting their own pressure.

Labeled a draft and intended for delivery to individual P-to-P software distributors, the letter asks such companies to better educate consumers about the "known risks" of their products, and to design their software with an eye toward minimizing those risks.

"Whether it is the widespread availability of pornography, including child pornography, the disclosure of sensitive personal information to millions of people, the exposure to pernicious computer worms and viruses, or the threat of legal liability for copyright infringement, P2P file-sharing software has proven costly and dangerous for many consumers," the draft said, according to a copy provided by P2P United.

"A failure to prominently and adequately warn consumers, particularly when you advertise and sell paid versions of your software, could constitute, at the very least, a deceptive trade pracPeer-to-peer (P-to-P) file-swapping software makers could soon find themselves under closer legal scrutiny from the attorneys general of several US states. A P-to-P industry advocacy group has distributed a leaked draft copy of a letter apparently in the works from California Attorney-General Bill Lockyer's office, promising increased scrutiny of the risks to consumers of P-to-P software programs.

P-to-P software makers are accustomed to legal troubles, but so far most of the actions against them have come from industry groups representing content creators, such as the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America. Lockyer's letter, the text of which indicates that several state attorneys general are expected to jointly sign it, illustrates that US state governments are considering exerting their own pressure.

Labelled a draft and intended for delivery to individual P-to-P software distributors, the letter asks such companies to better educate consumers about the "known risks" of their products, and to design their software with an eye toward minimising those risks.

"Whether it is the widespread availability of pornography, including child pornography, the disclosure of sensitive personal information to millions of people, the exposure to pernicious computer worms and viruses, or the threat of legal liability for copyright infringement, P2P file-sharing software has proven costly and dangerous for many consumers," the draft said, according to a copy provided by P2P United.

"A failure to prominently and adequately warn consumers, particularly when you advertise and sell paid versions of your software, could constitute, at the very least, a deceptive trade practice."

Other than deceptive trade practices, the letter mentions no specific laws recipients might be violating. It conveys grave concern about reports that P-to-P software makers are adding features to conceal the identities of users, which makes prosecuting illegal use more difficult, and said that the signatories would "not hesitate to take whatever actions we deem necessary to ensure that you fulfil your duties as a responsible corporate citizen."

A spokesperson for Attorney-General Lockyer, Tom Dressler, declined to comment on the authenticity of the circulating draft.

"If and when there is a letter to comment on, we'll do so at that time," he said.

Dressler acknowledged, though, that Lockyer was examining the issues surrounding P-to-P software use. "The attorney general has several concerns ... including exposure to child pornography, ID theft, copyright infringement and the spread of viruses," he said. "He believes these are serious issues that need to be addressed, and he's working with his colleagues in other states to figure out how we may want to address them."

P2P United, a lobby group representing several P-to-P software makers, isn't waiting for formal action before launching its counterattack. After receiving the leaked draft, the group sent Lockyer a letter expressing its disagreement with the contents, according to executive director, Adam Eisgrau.

Action on the grounds outlined in the draft would be "an extraordinary expansion of product liability law", P2P United said in its letter.

"[It seems] to create for all product producers a duty to warn the public about - or even redesign - an inherently beneficial product if it is merely susceptible to misuse by parties wholly outside the knowledge or control of the producer." tice."

Other than deceptive trade practices, the letter mentions no specific laws recipients might be violating. It conveys "grave concern" about reports that P-to-P software makers are adding features to conceal the identities of users, which makes prosecuting illegal use more difficult, and said that the signatories "will not hesitate to take whatever actions we deem necessary to ensure that you fulfill your duties as a responsible corporate citizen."

Tom Dressler, a spokesman for Attorney General Lockyer, declined to comment on the authenticity of the circulating draft.

"If and when there is a letter to comment on, we'll do so at that time," he said.

Dressler acknowledged, though, that Lockyer is examining the issues surrounding P-to-P software use.

"The attorney general has several concerns ... including exposure to child pornography, ID theft, copyright infringement and the spread of viruses," he said. "He believes these are serious issues that need to be addressed, and he's working with his colleagues in other states to figure out how we may want to address them."

P2P United, a Washington, D.C., lobby group representing several P-to-P software makers, isn't waiting for formal action before launching its counterattack. After receiving the leaked draft on Friday, the group sent Lockyer a letter Monday expressing its disagreement with the contents, according to Executive Director Adam Eisgrau.

Action on the grounds outlined in the draft would be "an extraordinary expansion of product liability law," P2P United said in its letter. "(It seems) to create for all product producers a duty to warn the public about -- or even redesign -- an inherently beneficial product if it is merely susceptible to misuse by parties wholly outside the knowledge or control of the producer."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stacy Cowley

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?