CA Attorney Gen. Circulates Anti-P2P Letter Authored by MPAA?
Wired has an eye-opening article on a draft letter circulated by the California Attorney General’s office to other state attorneys general that suggests peer-to-peer software producers are making a “dangerous product” and that the failure of technology makers to warn consumers could constitute a deceptive trade practice. More intriguing is that Wired obtained a copy of the draft document (a Word file) and reports that the document’s metadata suggests it was either authored by or reviewed by the Motion Picture Association of America.
The letter represents a continuation of the attack on P2P technologies themselves — rather than a focus on the illegal activities — begun by groups like MPAA and RIAA. From the letter (which is intended for P2P software producers):
It is widely recognized that P2P file-sharing software currently is used almost exclusively to disseminate pornography, and to illegally trade copyrighted music, movies, software and video games. File-sharing software also is increasingly becoming a means to disseminate computer worms and viruses. Nevertheless, your company still does little to warn consumers about the legal and personal risks they face when they use your software to “share” copyrighted music, movies and computer software. 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.
Fred Lohman, of The Electronic Frontier Foundation, is quoted a bit later in the article in reaction:
It’s one thing for the MPAA to come up with a theory like that, but it would be quite another for a state attorney general to adopt it. The principle has no limit — you can use Internet Explorer to violate the law or unintentionally access pornography, so does he want to suggest that Microsoft is also breaking the law? Why stop at the Internet — should Ford be held liable for failing to warn drivers that exceeding the speed limit will expose them to citations?”
Here are the other behaviors the letter writers believe characterize P2P programs:
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.
Not a very optimistic view of the technology….
Anyway, it’s not surprising that MPAA may have been involved in drafting the document, but that doesn’t make it any less unseemly. If nothing else it shows they still have a bit to learn about digital content.