A quick commentary on the... (06 Aug 2004)

A quick commentary on the letter sent by many attorneys general the `peer-to-peer software' producers.

At present, P2P software has too many times been hijacked by those who use it for illegal purposes to which the vast majority of our consumers do not wish to be exposed.

I hate to point out that the reason that most people use P2P networks is to be exposed to these `illegal purposes'. Look at the usage numbers for Napster before and after it went `legal'.

P2P file-sharing technology works by allowing consumers to download free software that enables them to directly share files stored on their hard drive with other users. This type of direct access to one's computer differentiates P2P file-sharing technology from garden-variety e-mail accounts and commercial search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

As opposed to the bleeding obvious differences between P2P and email/search engines?

One substantial and ever-growing use of P2P software is as a method of disseminating pornography, including child pornography.

Yep. True at least.

Consequently, P2P users need to be made aware that they are exposing themselves, and their children, to widespread availability of pornographic material when they download and install P2P file-sharing programs on their computers.

While sensible I'm guess that most people realise this. Esp after their first IE session where after they are let with dozens of popup windows of porn.

Furthermore, P2P file-sharing technology can allow its users to access the files of other users, even when the computer is "off".

Seriously, no. It really can't.

P2P users, including both home users and small businesses, who do not properly understand this software have inadvertently given other P2P users access to tax returns, medical files, financial records, personal e- mail, and confidential documents stored on their computers. ... Consequently, P2P users need to be properly educated so that they will not inadvertently share personal files on their hard drives with other users of your P2P file-sharing technology.

And this is small fry when compared to the amount of information leaked by viruses, photocopiers and leaving one's breifcase on the roof of the car as you drive away. (And, in the case of the British secret service, leaving your laptop in the pub). Since when do attorneys general bother themselves with people being stupid?

The illegal uses of P2P technology are having an adverse impact on our States consumers, economies, and general welfare.

Of course, this statement is asserted without justification and is debatable at best.

P2P file-sharing programs also are being used to illegally trade copyrighted music, movies, software, and video games, contributing to economic losses. The Business Software Alliance estimates that its members lost $13 billion in revenue last year due to software piracy. According to a February 20, 2004 CNN article, U.S. software companies lose up to $12 billion a year in piracy according to the Software and Information Industry Association. Music companies lost more than $4.6 billion worldwide last year, according to the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] and movie industry officials pegged their annual losses from bootlegged films at more than $3.5 billion.

at least here they give their sources, and what independant sources they are too. Generally `losses', as calculated in these figures are an estimate of the number of copied works (rounded up) times the retail cost. Which is assuming that every download is a lost sale.

We would ask you to take concrete and meaningful steps to avoid the infringement of the privacy and security of our citizens by bundling unwanted spyware and adware with your software.

I don't think they actually meant what they wrote here, but it's at least a little ray of light if I'm reading it (in)correctly.

Encryption only reinforces the perception that P2P technology is being used primarily for illegal ends. Accordingly, we would ask you to refrain from making design changes to your software that prevent law enforcement in our States from investigating and enforcing the law.

I think that law-enforcement already has plenty of powers to deal with this - upto and including installing keyloggers on suspect's computers.

We believe that meaningful steps can and should be taken by the industry to develop more adequate filters capable of better protecting P2P parents and children from unwanted or offensive material. Not warning parents about the presence of, and then reasonably providing them with the ability to block or remove, obscene and illegal materials from their computers is a serious threat to the health and safety of children and families in our States.

What the hell are `P2P parents'? Most of the parents I know are of the regular kind, and that kind are perfectly capable of supervising their children.