May 30, 2024

State AGs Warn P2P Vendors

Yesterday, the National Association of [state] Attorneys General sent a letter to P2P United, a trade association of peer-to-peer vendors, chiding the P2P industry for fostering porn, spyware, and copyright infringement. Though the letter does make a few good points, overall it’s an embarrassment to the attorneys general.

For starters, the letter contains some real howlers. Here’s the worst:

Furthermore, P2P file sharing technology can allow its users to access the files of other users, even when the computer is “off” if the computer itself is connected to the Internet via broadband.

Here’s another:

Market forces and technological limitations of the Internet (e.g. the need to pay for web space and bandwidth) have combined to make peer-to-peer software a more attractive alternative to the Internet as a means of disseminating pornography.

Some of the other arguments in the letter betray a similarly naive view of technology. For example, the letter urges P2P vendors to use image-based filtering to block pornographic content; but image-based filtering is known to be ridiculously ineffective at distinguishing porn from non-porn content.

I could go on at length, but I won’t. You can read Ernest Miller’s point-by-point response to the letter if you like.

Despite its many errors, the letter does make two good points. The first is that some P2P software automatically, by default, shares files from users’ hard drives. This is a dangerous practice, since it leads unsuspecting users to share files that might contain private information. The second good point is that some P2P vendors have bundled spyware into their products, thereby tricking their users into accepting surveillance of their activities. If the P2P companies really have their customers’ best interests at heart, they will stop these two practices.

As for the attorneys general, they obviously have a few things to learn about technology.


  1. What?
    No P2P software ‘shares files from people’s hard drives’. The basic P2P ones (emule,kazaa,etc.) create an empty ‘Shared Folder’ which is shared by default, but is empty. The more advanced (dc++,WASTE) give the user an option as to what they want to share.

  2. matt perkins says

    Naw, I don’t think even the content industry is quite that stupid. Obviously the AGs were referring to the fact that a P2P task can continue operating after the application’s main window is closed — and lay users might equate the disappearance of that window with the application being “off.” Sounds like a simple but easy confusion for someone who’s not too intimate with the technology.

    Which leads one to wonder: why on earth would these people put their professional signatures behind an essay on which they are so demonstrably ignorant?

  3. These “gaffs” are what you get when politicians decide to start making technology policy. As for whether they have “people” that are more knowledgeable to keep them straight, I’m not sure they care about being kept straight. I think they are more interested in pleasing the RIAA and MPAA, which is where they seem to get most/all their information. It wouldn’t surprise me if the little tidbit about accessing files when the computer is off came from media industry propaganda.

  4. Don’t these people have “people”? Some guy or gal who knows just the slightest bit about computers, or medicine, or whatever they’re after on a particular day? Couldn’t they just call someone and ask a question or two?