June 23, 2021

Archives for February 2003

Congressmen Tell Universities to Stop P2P

Declan McCullagh at CNet news.com 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.)

Berman Bill May Not Return

According to an article by Jon Healey in Friday’s Los Angeles Times, Rep. Howard Berman may not reintroduce his “peer-to-peer hacking” bill in the new Congress. The bill, you may recall, would authorize copyright owners to launch some types of targeted denial of service attacks against people who are offering infringing files via peer-to-peer systems like Kazaa, Gnutella, or the Web.

Berman had introduced the bill in the last Congress, but it died in committee. He had planned to reintroduce it, but is rethinking that after Hollywood expressed reservations about the bill.

This week, however, Berman said he may not revive the measure. For one thing, copyright holders may not need extra protection to combat file-sharing piracy, he said. And though Berman wasn’t deterred by complaints from consumer advocates, the concerns voiced by Hollywood studios – among the biggest beneficiaries of the bill, given their active anti-piracy efforts online – suggested that Berman was climbing out on a limb by himself.

In particular, Hollywood’s enthusiasm for the bill was dimmed by Berman’s insistence on imposing new liabilities on copyright holders that go too far in attacking pirates. “And if they’re not for it,” Berman asked, “where am I going?”

E-Voting Victory (Probably)

Santa Clara County, California, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, has decided that their new electronic voting machines must offer voter-checkable audit records. An AP story at the New York Times reports that the vendor, Sequoia Voting Systems, will add paper receipt printers to their machines to accomodate the county.

This looks like a victory for the campaign by computer scientists against e-voting systems that don’t offer such paper records. Now we’ll see what we can do here in Mercer County, New Jersey.

UPDATE (7:30 PM): Kim Alexander at the California Voter Foundation offers a more detailed (and nuanced) description of Santa Clara County’s decision. (Thanks to Jim Tyre for the pointer.)