March 20, 2018

Congressmen Tell Universities to Stop P2P

Declan McCullagh at CNet reports on a congressional committee hearing today about P2P copyright infringement at universities. Some in Congress are turning up the rhetorical heat on universities, urging them to react to copyright infringement as energetically as they react to the most serious crimes.

Members of the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees copyright law said at a hearing that peer-to-peer piracy was a crime under a 1997 federal law, but universities continued to treat file-swapping as a minor infraction of campus disciplinary codes.

“If on your campus you had an assault and battery or a murder, you’d go down to the district attorney’s office and deal with it that way,” said Rep. William Jenkins, R-Tenn.

All of this discussion seems to assume that it is easy to distinguish P2P traffic from other traffic. This may be true in the short run, but once P2P blocking starts to become popular, the P2P systems will evolve so that they blend in to non-P2P traffic. In the long run, blocking P2P traffic looks like a technically dubious approach.

Nonetheless, things will get increasingly unpleasant for universities.

(Disclaimer: I don’t speak for Princeton. When I write about “universities” I mean universities in general and not Princeton in particular.)