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US Lawmakers Set Sights On P2P Programs

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the noes-of-the-camel dept.

Censorship 180

After the FTC sent letters to 100 organizations warning them that their data is being leaked on P2P networks — and now has requested detailed operational data from at least a subset of those organizations — it was pretty likely that anti-P2P legislation would get proposed. Two senators have introduced the P2P Cyber Protection and Informed User Act, which "...would prohibit peer-to-peer file-sharing programs from being installed without the informed consent of the authorized computer user. The legislation would also prohibit P2P software that would prevent the authorized user from blocking the installation of a P2P file-sharing program and/or disabling or removing any P2P file-sharing program. Software developers would be required to clearly inform users when their files are made available to other peer-to-peer users under legislation introduced Feb. 24 by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Thune, R-S.D."

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Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no sense (2, Informative)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286692)

"...would prohibit peer-to-peer file-sharing programs from being installed without the informed consent of the authorized computer user. The legislation would also prohibit P2P software that would prevent the authorized user from blocking the installation of a P2P file-sharing program and/or disabling or removing any P2P file-sharing program.

They speak English on What?

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (4, Insightful)

ig88b (1401217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286762)

I had to read it a couple times too. They're basically trying to prevent "hidden" p2p software.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287348)

I had to read it a couple times too. They're basically trying to prevent "hidden" p2p software.

Exactly, or drive by installed P2P software that shares your entire disk just because you wanted a torrent of the latest OpenSUSE distro.

While this in itself would be commendable, these things end up being a gloss of what really gets implemented in regulation. What starts out looking like protection for the consumer is really a ploy to remove plausible deniablity as a defense.

Further, such a bill would do nothing when Little Billy, who is an authorized user of Mom's machine, gives away the family tax returns while trying to get the next level of Wonder Rabbit to download by clicking thru that popup warning.

There are already laws prohibiting unauthorized used of a computer, and the government already knows exactly who the bot masters and spam masters are, yet they walk around untouched while the "real criminals" are sued into poverty for sharing a song. Do we really need more unenforceable laws prohibiting what is already prohibited?

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (3, Insightful)

meustrus (1588597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287732)

Seems to me like this just does two things:

  • Software requires explicit user consent to install.
  • Software requires explicit user consent to share files.

The first seems like common sense for all software, not just P2P (if it already existed, this provision would be redundant). If the law also clearly defined the difference between an "update" and "new software," it might prevent Microsoft from pushing out WGA as an automatic update. It could also provide legal provision against a specific hacker activity, installing malware, rather than the blanket DMCA provision against unauthorized computer access (which could be playful and/or harmless, whereas silently installing software almost never is).

As for the second one, I once installed Shareaza, and found eventually that it had downloaded a lot of high profile pirated software, presumably to share on the network and increase download speeds for other users. The program itself showed no indication of where these files came from, or how to remove them or stop sharing them. In the process, it implicated my as a copyright infringer without my intent, or even any benefit from the usage of the pirated software. Obviously there are more problems with technically illiterate people, but even a technical person could be bamboozled by the right program into sharing sensitive documents or participating in illegal activities. Again, these are actions most used by nefarious hackers.

So, it's a law that should, in effect, provide real, useful provisions against hackers. It is not banning P2P as a technology, nor is it even targeting the sharing of copyrighted materials AFAIK.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288218)

I once installed Shareaza, and found eventually that it had downloaded a lot of high profile pirated software, presumably to share on the network and increase download speeds for other users.

The real open source Shareaza or the fake Discordia client ?

I find it a bit hard to believe; are you sure that it was _it_ and not _you_ who downloaded the files (possibly with different/fake names) ?

I am almost certain that Shareaza doesn't do anything illegal although it can be (just as FTP or HTTP) used for illegal purposes.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287682)

But why have a law restricted to p2p software? Wouldn't it make more sense to prohibit this sort of hidden installation of any software?

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

bluewolfcub (1681832) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286770)

It's the magic ebul p2p software that prevent you installing p2p software...
Maybe they're trying to counteract any possible "but I didn't know it was on my computer" defenses
Don't know though :D

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (5, Insightful)

Bagels (676159) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286796)

Basically, it sounds like there's two things here. Blocking P2P software that interferes with other P2P software in a malware-esque fashion, and enforcing clear notifications that shared files are, well, shared. Seems dumb, but a lot of folks out there don't realize that if they share "My Documents," everything from their tax records to their secret porn stash is going to be on the web for all and sundry to download. This hits home particularly hard for gov't employees, considering some of the sensitive stuff that's leaked through LimeWire and the like over the years.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (4, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287164)

That's how I read this too. However, the devil is in the details, which we don't have.

Given that a: usually a bill is introduced with opposite meaning to the statement of the bill if it's done by a bad politician and that b: it could be about the above but introduce some other issues, I'll hold my breath. I also can't find this act anywhere, other than it being mentioned as "to be introduced".

This is a type of bill that could easily be subverted by bad interests depending on who influences it.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

jad jar (1754994) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287370)

thank you very much

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288028)

It sounds to me like they're specifically trying to target corporate and government agencies. This part:

would prohibit peer-to-peer file-sharing programs from being installed without the informed consent of the authorized computer user.

Sounds like they're making it illegal for an employee to install P2P without permission from the boss (the computer owner). It sounds like they are trying to clamp down on corporate and government files being unknowingly shared because a user wanted to download some music (or whatever else). That seems to be in line with the FTC sending notices to companies warning them that their data is being leaked. They probably concluded that the reason for that was because some of their users had installed P2P software to do one thing, and instead unknowingly started sharing their documents.

Basically, this sounds like a legal requirement to educate users of P2P software, and they're putting that requirement on the makers of P2P software. It doesn't really sound like a bad idea to me, and I'm a bit confused why this is filed under censorship.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

centuren (106470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288314)

Basically, it sounds like there's two things here. Blocking P2P software that interferes with other P2P software in a malware-esque fashion, and enforcing clear notifications that shared files are, well, shared. Seems dumb, but a lot of folks out there don't realize that if they share "My Documents," everything from their tax records to their secret porn stash is going to be on the web for all and sundry to download. This hits home particularly hard for gov't employees, considering some of the sensitive stuff that's leaked through LimeWire and the like over the years.

If this is spurred by information being unintentionally shared by organisations (gov't offices, companies), then I don't really see how a legislated solution is at all appropriate. Organisations deploy an IT infrastructure, directly or through a 3rd party outsourcing, and have, in the same manner, been in charge of it's operation and integrity.

Like any software a person installs with access to the Internet, one has to understand the software and, to some extent, trust it. If people are installing P2P software and letting it "Look for files to share" or just share "My Documents", then it's really the users' mistake. If corporate or gov't data is being leaked as a result, it's really the organisations' mistake, whether it be lack of IT training or security.

I'm automatically suspicious of legislation like this, since I know there's all too often that "not understanding what's being shared" didn't actually come as a result of "not being clearly told what's going to be shared". Many users leaking data through a P2P shared home directory most likely gave informed consent, but just clicked right past that screen as part of the install. Installer steps are important; they often help understand and customise how software is going to run. Not paying heed and regretting it after the fact is a mistake, not something that needs legal subsidy (i.e. protection against incompetence).

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31286804)

Apparently not, especially when they don't understand the subject. Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the US already have laws to prevent unauthorised access?

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287356)

Inept sharing is different from unauthorized access. Inept sharing means that other do have authorization to access the documents.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (4, Funny)

AlamedaStone (114462) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287674)

Inept sharing is different from unauthorized access. Inept sharing means that other do have authorization to access the documents.

Yes, and with this law, we would finally make it illegal to be inept! Problem solved.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (5, Insightful)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286820)

Simple, mate. It just means you'll no longer be able to say "OMG! I had no idea that my computer was sharing that movie" in court.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286946)

If it was the underhand, self-installing, not-notifying, law-ignoring kind of P2P software you could still claim ignorance.

"It was them evil HACKERS guv'. I had no idea! You should lock them up, not me."

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287988)

A proper defense can now make use of this argument simply because this has been brought to public attention (and even before... I had a friend in college who had a number of interviews with the FBI because his computer had been used as a zombie for some terrorist group... it was worse for him than for others because he also happened to be a Muslim right after 9/11)... at least on a limited basis... all of the comments now make me want to go and see if my torrent program has been downloading stuff for me without me knowing it (a la the shareaza comment above).

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286828)

No, they are legislators. Legislators rarely speak any recognizable language when discussing the law. The longer an individual is in the legislature the worse this becomes.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31286832)

Blizzard installer has a peer to peer component and you have to choices: Download from their servers alone (slow) or download from other users and main server (fast). This legistlation would just for such programs to tell users about the P2P component and let them opt-out.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

AlamedaStone (114462) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287700)

Blizzard installer *mumble, mumble* tell users about the P2P component and let them opt-out.

They do, and you can. Move along.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (2, Informative)

choongiri (840652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287060)

Yeah, that's a total mind-fuck of a paragraph. My attempt at parsing it:

would prohibit peer-to-peer file-sharing programs
{
   from being installed without the informed consent of the authorized computer user
}
and
{
   that would prevent the authorized user from
   {
      blocking the installation of a P2P file-sharing program
   }
   and/or
   {
   disabling or removing any P2P file-sharing program.
   }
}

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287410)

You got it wrong after "and". It is the software that is prohibited from blocking other software installs, not the user.

Re:Either I'm retarded (given) or this makes no se (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287190)

Good to know that calling myself retarded is worthy of a troll mod. Good stuff, I feel a heightened sense of self-worth already. ;-P

Seriously, the language of the proposed bill was horrible. it isn't trolling to point that out, Mr Mod.

Actually anti-spam/botnet? (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286746)

Most well-known P2P software is deliberately installed. And users are told where their shared files will be.

So how would P2P software be installed without consent? Perhaps spambots and other nefarious malware?

That makes this less "P2P-related" and more anti-spam. And that's a good thing, I think.

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286808)

So how would P2P software be installed without consent? Perhaps spambots and other nefarious malware?

Windows phone home maybe?

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286830)

Windows phone home

Ouch.

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31286860)

Is windows phoning home VIA P2P now, or are you just an idiot?

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286956)

this is /. - so, probably the latter

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287582)

So why wouldn't this type of legislation apply to a client server system when one party doesn't know the other is having their application send your information to them?

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287670)

When did Windows sending data back to Microsoft constitute P2P? Even the update network is still a direct one way connection. Blizzard is a better example. WoW.
No one ASKS to install the Peer2peer client in the updater, it just fucking happens. Theres tons of other great examples. This hurts legitimate businesses.

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (1)

XAD1975 (1628499) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286846)

I actually can't remember whether WoW's patcher mentions the fact it uses P2P or not, even though it is an option that can be turned off.

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (2, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286954)

It does. Though you can opt to use the mirror - though they only recommend it if the P2P Services don't work for various reasons.

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (1)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286864)

Maybe they are more focused on software that sends out data from the user as opposed to data the user can download. How many less techincal users understand that the P2P software not only allows them to download stuff but provides their stuff as downloadable by others?

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (5, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287146)

Most well-known P2P software is deliberately installed. And users are told where their shared files will be.

So how would P2P software be installed without consent?

Happens at work all the time. The users are not authorized to install P2P Software, but it happens. Managers get administrative rights to the computers under their controls, they get lazy with permissions and give their underlings local admins... And before you know it we get a few hundred calls to ISOHunt.

Then we drop in a couple canisters of Tear Gas, have the exits swarmed with armed IT Technicians, and shove the offenders into the back of our Van. Hellz yeah. ...

Sigh... Do you fantasize about your job?

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287480)

I don't know. I'm hugely suspicious of this, for two reasons: Congress has a nasty habit of not understanding the technological ramifications of their legislation. And when they do make legislation where they understand the ramifications, it's generally for the purpose of making sure that corporations don't have their business models cut out from underneath them.

While on the face of it, the bill seems alright (don't hide what your program does), I don't understand why it's specifically targeting P2P programs. Wouldn't it make sense to have the bill simply say "software should never be installed without the users consent" and "software should not be misleading in their activities"? What bothers me is the insistence from the two politicians that P2P programs somehow present an inherent privacy and security risk. I'm putting on my tinfoil hat here for a second, but I'm guessing that this has to be read in the larger context that P2P software is bad in general, and should be tightly regulated.

I don't like where this is going. As the bill reads, it won't solve any problem that currently exists, and assumes something dangerous: that a specific type of software is somehow worse than others. I'm expecting that these two politicians will soon propose bills that restrict peer-to-peer connectivity in general (goodbye net neutrality) and legislate what software can and cannot do (goodbye software startups written by a single person).

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287956)

Depending on what constitutes knowledge and consent from authorized user, many of the legitimate actions taken by software (auto-updaters and the like) happen without full knowledge of a non-tech-savvy user administering their home machine. I think we could substitute 'p2p' with 'disk management' here and still have the same intent; it's just that we don't have many high-profile cases of massive organizational caused by users accidentally formatting their hard drives (and 3rd-party tools to do this aren't as common).

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287998)

I agree. I didn't RTFA, of course, but I did read the summary and the bit quoted in the summary sounds like something that should apply to software in general, not just p2p. Don't install shit I didn't specifically say I want installed. Don't stop me from disabling the software once it is installed. It also sounds like something that will be completely ignored by the sort of people who are causing software to be installed without the user's consent already.

Re:Actually anti-spam/botnet? (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288138)

So how would P2P software be installed without consent?

If the person doing the installing (such as a corporate or government employee) doesn't have the permission of the computer owner (such as a corporation or government).

The government doesn't really care about stopping home users from unwittingly sharing their vast collection of Word documents. It's corporate and government documents they're trying to get a handle on.

Huh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31286764)

Is it bad that given the text presented here, I see little to nothing wrong with the proposed law? I haven't read the full text of the proposed bill, but having it say 'Don't install your software without permission' seems like a good thing to me. This could be twisted around to give legal recourse for some malware out there. "I didn't want that file with my information sent to anyone!"

Re:Huh... (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287520)

Yes, it is bad, since by now, many people have pointed out the how it CAN be read is "Any P2P software you have on your computer can be assumed to be authorized installations, and any files you are sharing you are doing purposefully." This means that if you're sued for copyright infringement, you aren't able to say "my son's friend installed it, I didn't know." Because since it's on your computer, it's an authorized install now.

Re:Huh... (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288160)

You could easily, though, read this in exactly the opposite fashion. Person X is accused of breaking copyright (or whatever) law. His computer is brought into court and it is determined it was because of software company Y's product. All he has to do is point the finger at the boy down the street and say, "it was him" - obviously he's breaking the law by installing things on my computer I don't want. Further, assuming that some programs like shareaza or what have you simply tag the violating code but don't delete it in the next build, a defense could be made that the end user was the "victim" (depending on whether or not person X is ethical on owning up to things).

Legislate a technical solution. (3, Insightful)

Kuroji (990107) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286774)

Because it's worked so well in the past, when some idiot is breaking the rules to install some sort of software that they're already not allowed to install...

What's next, are we going to legislate against games being installed on workplace computers?

Re:Legislate a technical solution. (1)

Mark4ST (249650) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286856)

Bwhen some idiot is breaking the rules to install some sort of software that they're already not allowed to install...

What sort of rules are you talking about exactly?

Re:Legislate a technical solution. (2, Insightful)

Kuroji (990107) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286908)

I would wager money that the majority of those organizations have rules against installing unauthorized programs on their computers, specifically P2P software in many cases.

Those rules.

Re:Legislate a technical solution. (4, Funny)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286912)

What's next, are we going to legislate against games being installed on workplace computers?

God, I hope so. I'll change my title to Computer, and file a lawsuit the next time my superiors start playing their little reindeer games.

Re:Legislate a technical solution. (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286988)

If it stops games companies installing stealth Bittorrent clients that proceed to use up all my bandwidth, I'm all for it.

This is not legislation of a technical solution... (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287414)

This is legislation basically saying a company has to conform to points 1, 2 and 3 if they want to install software X of a particular variant (in this case, P2P) on your machine.

This is not really much different from telling a contractor that they're free to install a bathroom into your home, but that they will have to abide by laws 1, 2 and 3 regarding things like the electrical wiring.
( although that's based on UK and NL law - I suppose maybe in the U.S. every contractor is free to install an outlet into the side of their client's bathtub if they so desire? )

Is that over-legislation in the case of P2P? probably. But mostly because it's a bit odd to target P2P specifically - it could apply to just about any program. Security programs would be an issue, though*

The points themselves -seem- sound enough, though...

prohibit peer-to-peer file-sharing programs from being installed without the informed consent of the authorized computer user.

no stealthy installs - I'm all for that. I'm looking at you, Apple with iTunes and Safari, and you MS for MSN's final installation screen suggesting IE should be my default browser and MSN be set my homepage, and a crapload of other apps that suggest that installing a Yahoo! toolbar is vital to the operation of the principle software.. give me a donate button instead, I'll happily part with some dosh if I'm using your app, more than you're getting from Yahoo for the toolbar install I'd imagine.

The legislation would also prohibit P2P software that would prevent the authorized user from blocking the installation of a P2P file-sharing program and/or disabling or removing any P2P file-sharing program.

So, bittorrent isn't allowed to block my installation of, say, utorrent, nor is would it be allowed to prevent me from uninstalling itself (or others).
* just to get back to that security programs bit - obviously a security program -should- be allowed to block other software from being installed if that other software is malware. So that's where broader legislation could have problems.

Software developers would be required to clearly inform users when their files are made available to other peer-to-peer users

Given the "I didn't know!" defense-craptaculaire proferred by some people, I think that's sane, too. Heck, disable sharing by default, and if the user wants to share files warn them of the ramifications, and always make it clear -which- files you're sharing.. not via a configuration dialog that merely specifies the path - offer a screen where you can get an -actual list- of the files.
Better yet would be not allowing the sharing of a directory 'as is' at all. Have the user confirm that any files added to a specified share folder should be shared - keep a simple database (flat text file would do) of the files the user actually wanted to share.
That way you can't have business users dropping a random document(s) into the share folder, forgetting that they had it shared, and auto-sharing that/those document(s) with the world -unless- they also go to their P2P app to confirm that they want the added file(s) shared.

The thing -I- worry about is that IANAL. Moreover, IANAS(neaky)L - so I don't know just how these definitions (which I suspect are loosely phrased around the actual suggested legislation anyway) can be worked around, or twisted for abuse, etc.

Re:Legislate a technical solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287580)

I totally agree its moronic on many levels to legislate installation of certain classes of software.

One useful act of legislation might be targetting systems that transparently join a P2P system such as the Adobe "Ocotoshape grid delivery enhancement" if you've ever been to a CNN web site you were probably asked to install at some point. While it does not share "your" files it does share "your" bandwidth and most tech savvy people have no earthly clue what is occuring.

Stupid.... (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286786)

This is not a legal problem. Laws are not going to fix it, but will make it only harder to deal with it.

the guv'mint (1)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286790)

Doesn't, at first glance, see that all of these files aren't being placed there willy-nilly. Their computers are being targeted with simple malware,
and the fine folks behind the malware find all of these fun and neat files and place them online for the rest of the world to see.

Also, making illegal the "non-user aware placement of software" ?? doesn't really need yet another law to do what is already illegal.

They just want the P2P buzzword, which does nothing.

Computer experts really need to get the message and the learning out that P2P is a misnomer, and that they need to take responsibility for the security
of their own computes.

Oh, wait, personal responsibility? That's un-mer'can.

Re:the guv'mint (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287218)

>>>They just want the P2P buzzword, which does nothing.

Pretty much. When I watched our "finest" leaders debating the healthcare plan yesterday, it was embarrassing. These guys don't know crap about the stuff they legislate. They're just going for what "sounds good" to the voters..... like "I banned P2P".

Re:the guv'mint (2, Insightful)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287526)

good luck getting doctors, engineers, or something similar to drop their well payed jobs and go into politics.

Re:the guv'mint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287808)

When I watched our "finest" leaders debating the healthcare plan yesterday, it was embarrassing. These guys don't know crap about the stuff they legislate.

You'd be surprised how much they understand. The problem is that the public (and we're talking the voting public as a whole) knows far less. If politicians only spoke the language of those who were technically proficient in whatever field they are legislating about, then their language is going to alienate the vast majority of their district (even in tech-heavy districts, the proportion of tech-savvy people is not exactly a majority). However, when they dumb it down, they often alienate the technically proficient, but they are able to speak to a much larger portion of the public who isn't.

Do the math, if a legislator is going to win more votes by dumbing down their language (which often requires obfuscating a bit), it's an easy call.

And really, why do you care about your legislators' knowledge anyway? Their job is to get elected, give speeches, cast votes, and talk to the press. Their staff is doing 95% of the legislative work. Those are jobs which are highly competitive and are usually filled by people who do know alot.

PS - Yes, there are still plenty of dumb Congressman, I'm only responding to the sweeping generalization.

Censorship? Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31286802)

Did the tagger even bother to read the summary? They are not prohibiting P2P software, they are trying to govern its behavior. The realistic side of me says this is pointless, but the idealist in me hopes that P2P writers do change their behavior. Greater information and control on the part of the user can't be a bad thing.

Re:Censorship? Seriously? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287436)

This is like a law against blocking or spoofing your caller ID. The people who do it get away with it because there's no way to track them down. This is just a sad attempt to make a "pile on" law in the rare instance that they do catch someone.

Why limit it to P2P programs? (5, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#31286886)

As far as I'm concerned they should extend it further. It seems like a
good set of principles, why limit it to programs that communicate across
a network?

It should be prohibited to install ANY program on a computer without the
informed consent of the user. And programs that remove other programs,
or block the operation of other programs, without the user being informed,
should also be illegal.

Of course, this would cover some of the DRM techniques that block
disk image emulation, and probably a few other DRM techniques.

And yes, any program that serves your files up to the internet shouldn't
do it without your consent. Until recently, that would have included
Windows file sharing....

Re:Why limit it to P2P programs? (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287000)

It should be prohibited to install ANY program on a computer without the informed consent of the user.

But how many times should the user be required to give consent for a software distribution that comprises dozens or thousands of packages? Operating system distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora come to mind.

Re:Why limit it to P2P programs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287078)

Since the user is installing the software, isn't that consent? I don't know about *informed* consent, but that seems impossible to measure unless software distributors have to test the users to make sure they know what they are doing.

Re:Why limit it to P2P programs? (2, Funny)

QRDeNameland (873957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287592)

Since the user is installing the software, isn't that consent? I don't know about *informed* consent, but that seems impossible to measure unless software distributors have to test the users to make sure they know what they are doing.

This [smbc-comics.com] seems to be an appropriate illustration of that point.

Re:Why limit it to P2P programs? (1)

mystik (38627) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287778)

When I ask aptitude to install apache2, I get apache2. I don't get apache2, a download manager, and a toolbar in my firefox browser.

Heck, some packages even 'suggest' or 'reccomend' additional packages. But it's strictly OPT-IN.

It is a sad state of affairs that Windows users have to suffer through this crap. Microsoft should of stepped up to the bar and provided Operating System features that actually belong in the Operating system, namely, package + update management.

Re:Why limit it to P2P programs? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287970)

When I ask aptitude to install apache2, I get apache2. I don't get apache2, a download manager, and a toolbar in my firefox browser.

But when you ask the Ubuntu Live CD to install "Ubuntu", what do you get?

Re:Why limit it to P2P programs? (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287298)

As far as I'm concerned they should extend it further. It seems like a good set of principles, why limit it to programs that communicate across a network?

Why limit it to sharing files, rather than sharing information? Sending my MAC address to a server shouldn't be hidden.

Also, why limit it to "peers" rather than another computer? If software phones home why shouldn't we know what's being sent?

Re:Why limit it to P2P programs? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287858)

Very agreed -- same thing I was going to post.

would prohibit peer-to-peer file-sharing programs from being installed without the informed consent of the authorized computer user. The legislation would also prohibit P2P software that would prevent the authorized user from blocking the installation of a P2P file-sharing program and/or disabling or removing any P2P file-sharing program.

Just change it to:

would prohibit programs from being installed without the informed consent of the authorized computer user. The legislation would also prohibit software that would prevent the authorized user from blocking the installation of a program and/or disabling or removing any program.

As you note, though, this would mean that the oligarchs would not be permitted to control the computers of the serfs.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31286932)

The headline doesn't seem to match the summary, and I haven't even gotten to TFA. It sounds to like they aren't trying to prevent P2P, but rather trying to prevent malware that has P2P functions. The only real benefit I see is the stablishment of law to be tested in prosecution of malware developers.

Need for P2P? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31286936)

Is there a reason this requires the term p2p and can't just say:

Programs that are installed on a computer without user consent are illegal.
Programs that send information from the user's machine must make it clear exactly what information is being sent.

Heck, I could get behind this kind of legislation.

Broken Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31286962)

We should send them all home! http://www.reelectnone.org

You shouldn't be P2P at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287012)

You should be P2P at home.

Last law that actually slowed criminals? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287016)

Drug laws, nope. Gun laws, nope. Embezzlement laws, nope. Terrorism laws, nope. Child porn laws, nope. Stupid politicians can't run for reelection laws, I'll get right on that one.

Re:Last law that actually slowed criminals? (1)

theJML (911853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287754)

Mod this up!

Seriously, no law that I've heard has really had that much of an effect on illegal behaviour. Sure, it gave the feds/authorities the ability to prosecute and such, but if someone wants to do something they'll do it, law against or no law against. All this does is intrude on law abiding citizens.

That said, it sounds like a good idea from the excerpt: Prevent a program/bot/other people from installing something on your pc that will share your files/block your programs/generally annoy you or cause you harm without first asking permission from the person doing the installing. But think about it, not only does this seem inherently flawed (dude breaks into your pc, installs program, is prompted if he wants to install it, sure he does, it's not HIS Computer!). If a bot/virus/trojan gets installed, well, it'll just hit the 'okay' button automatically. Is this really going to change anything, other than adding an extra prompt and legal ramifications? More government involvement for little gain!

P2P but not the type you download (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287036)

I wonder if this is intended more to target spyware and data-mining applications from installing themselves than to regulate P2P software like uTorrent.

If that's the case than this is a great thing.

I'm sure they'll find some way to fuck it up though.

This is so stupid my eye is twitching. (2, Interesting)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287040)

First of all, I find it hard to believe that it isn't already illegal to surreptitiously install software on someone's computer. And even more illegal to install software that steals data.

Second, if that's not already illegal, why are they making a law that only targets one specific type of software?

Either the entire plan is utterly ignorant or this is a "foot in the door" to outlaw P2P. Either way, I think our government has more important issues to deal with right now.

Re:This is so stupid my eye is twitching. (1)

Jahava (946858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287464)

Good post.

First of all, I find it hard to believe that it isn't already illegal to surreptitiously install software on someone's computer. And even more illegal to install software that steals data.

I think the issue here (and it's legit, in my opinion) is the deliberate conscious awareness of the types of data being made available. I'm sure somewhere in EULAs and/or liability waivers, most software is protected legally. The issue that needs addressing is the general ineffectiveness of EULA-style notification relative to user awareness. Just because the information is available doesn't mean that it is effectively disclosed.

Second, if that's not already illegal, why are they making a law that only targets one specific type of software?

Either the entire plan is utterly ignorant or this is a "foot in the door" to outlaw P2P.

It brings to mind exactly what they mean by "P2P". Do they mean decentralized autonomously-forming peer networks? Because surprisingly few pieces of software actually qualify for this. Or does this include networks that utilize central tracking services (like BitTorrent) or superhubs (like Limewire)? How about master servers that facilitate peer awareness and communication? Or just master servers in general that regard all clients as peers?

It seems like "P2P" is just a buzzword to these people, and that's likely to manifest in the court's interpretation of the laws (should any be passed). Likely, "P2P" will be legally interpreted as "file sharing", and include everything from Windows networking and FTP through BitTorrent.

Either way, I think our government has more important issues to deal with right now

I'm not as sure as you seem about this. Software that shares data without the user's explicit awareness could (minimally) introduce or expose vulnerabilities and (potentially) exploit them (given the general underground nature of some of this software). This results in users' systems being, in general, less locked down and less secure. For example, if a plain-text password file is shared, even the most secure user system could fall. Mandating user awareness and providing authorities with a legal avenue to pursue against more illicit software (like IE toolbar extensions) could certainly score a blow towards creating a more secure computing space.

With the US failing utterly in cyber defense, the legal ability to pursue this end may actually end up being pretty damned important.

User accountability (2, Insightful)

HydroPhonic (524513) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288136)

is what this law tries to ensure. No more users complaining ignorance of what their programs are "making available"... Definitely a boon for *AA organizations....

Send your representative a link to this thread. (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287062)

Especially if you're a constituent of one of the sponsors, it's your duty to let them know what the technical community thinks of their shenanigans. They can read what real-world people think, and if they can argue their way out of it then fine pass the bill. but I bet they can't.

What's the point of posting an opinion here if you don't also send it to your representative?

Congress proposes bad bill
Everyone in the world points out how stupid it is
Congress doesn't read the internet or newspapers
Bill passes, there's a law now.
Everyone asks, how could this possibly have been passed? Did they not understand all of the stuff we said behind their backs?
Government doesn't listen, why bother.

The cycle repeats. It's your responsibility to at least register opposition.

Yep. Everything can be fixed with new laws. (2, Interesting)

Hazelfield (1557317) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287074)

So we're looking at a law that requries P2P software to inform about what P2P means and demand explicit consent from the user (which everyone will doubtlessly click away as readily as we dismiss EULAs, i.e. as soon as we've found the right button).

To me it looks like a cheap and easy way of making it look like you're solving a problem. Doesn't say anything about the severity of that problem or the efficiency of the solution, but you can't get everything I suppose.

you're missing the point. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287200)

it outsources the cost. It's then up to you to pay for enforcement. Not them...

 

Why stifle progress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287154)

Bittorrent is an awesome protocol. It's a leap technologically from the old server/client download model, and really ought to be embraced and developed by people instead of seen as a disease on the internet. You can't go mole whacking stuff any time it hurts the wallet of some big company. Sucks to be you, guy... learn to move forward and adapt.

This isn't about Bittorrent (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287442)

The people who are too dumb to understand which folder's contents are being shared aren't using bittorrent, they are using something like LimeWire. Inadvertent sharing isn't really a problem with torrents, but it can be with older protocols like Gnutella.

Fixing a non-existant problem (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287254)

their data is being leaked on P2P networks

Because:
(a) Someone installed a P2P file-sharing program (deliberately)

(b) They accidently (or ignorantly) selected a folder to share that contained company data or they didn't specify which folders to share, so everything got shared by default

Just do a quick Google search and you can find all sorts of stuff that people have exposed to the Internet -- and you don't even have to secretly install any evil P2P software

Minus p2p (4, Interesting)

Strilanc (1077197) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287256)

If you remove 'p2p' from this, it almost makes sense. Not allowing software to stealth-install or block uninstallation? Why isn't that already a law?

Re:Minus p2p (2, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287482)

If you remove 'p2p' from this, it almost makes sense. Not allowing software to stealth-install or block uninstallation? Why isn't that already a law?

Here in the UK, it _almost_ is. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 states:

(a) he does any act which causes an unauthorised modification of the contents of any computer; and

(b) at the time when he does the act he has the requisite intent and the requisite knowledge.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) above the requisite intent is an intent to cause a modification of the contents of any computer and by so doing--

(a) to impair the operation of any computer;

(b) to prevent or hinder access to any program or data held in any computer; or

(c) to impair the operation of any such program or the reliability of any such data.

(3) The intent need not be directed at--

(a) any particular computer;

(b) any particular program or data or a program or data of any particular kind; or

(c) any particular modification or a modification of any particular kind.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) above the requisite knowledge is knowledge that any modification he intends to cause is unauthorised.

The only problem is the requirement that you have to know the modification is unauthorised before you can be prosecuted. In practice, this means that people who intentionally install malware on systems can be prosecuted, but malware authors generally can't (unless, of course, they're the same person).

How is this bad? (2, Insightful)

Khisanth Magus (1090101) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287322)

I dislike the government as much as anyone, particularly their views on "piracy"...but I don't really see what is wrong with this law. It prohibits P2P software from being installed without your consent, and forces that P2P software to tell you what it is sharing with other people. How are these bad?

Re:How is this bad? (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288188)

How are these bad?

      Because the government has no business getting between me and my computer, just like my OS has no business letting things install themselves without my permission. It took redmond a while to realize that opening up the user's computer for access by the WORLD was a "bad idea", and finally they have made the default "no permission" unless authorized.

      That stupid people STILL click on anything, open any attachment, and naively load all sorts of programs onto their machines is not something the government should prevent. Just like they shouldn't be watching over your shoulder every minute to make sure you don't kill yourself.

      If I WANT to load a program, I will - be there a law against it or NOT. Criminalizing it with laws that are prohibitively expensive to actually enforce is a waste of taxpayer resources. With 2 wars going on and all the social problems in the world, they can't think of anything better to do with public funds?

The ONLY use for a law like this is finding something to charge a person with ONCE HE HAS ALREADY BEEN ARRESTED/SEARCHED for a different reason. "Oh we seized your laptop to search it because you [fit the profile|were the next randomly selected person to be searched|we felt like it] and we didn't find any child pornography or evidence of money laundering, which is what we were looking for. HOWEVER we DID notice while going through your Windows Registry that at one point you had P2P program XYZ installed. This is an illegal program, and for that reason you are being arrested - put your hands behind your back...

This sounds perfectly logical (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287376)

Being a /.er I, of course, only read the summary--but that makes it sound like they are preventing anyone from installing software on your computer that you don't approve of.

Am I misreading it?

Re:This sounds perfectly logical (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287550)

No. Your English comprehension skills are good. Presently, the first half of the comments are comprised of people who can't understand sentences with a length greater than eight words.

Sucks to be you, guy... learn to move forward and (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287384)

Pretty soon in the dismal not so distant future, this will be you tools as Atlas Shrugs and sits on your dumbass geek neck you button pushing dopes.

Not only are you killing the economic model that has enabled you to attain what you have thus far, but your are killing your own market idiots even as the worlds 2 largest populations, markets, come online to modernity, you have enabled them to not only "share" the fruits of your labor for free but soon your jobs.

Be it P2P or FOSS

    It all spells doom for you and now as your jobs are being outsourced to china and india, its the begining of the end for you all and you dont even fucking know it because your selfish cheap little pricks who think your entitled

Your entitled to go off and starve and thats what your gonna learn to do, sooner than you think morons!

What about roads and inroads (1)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287388)

Well we do peer to peer communications over roads, and telephones and the mail. And illegal activity happens over all of those. They would not shut these down. Make laws to make certain practices illegal yes but shut them down no. Why not? Because they are used by everyone, especially the law makers. If someone found a way to get these system more integrated into society then they would have the same protections by lawmakers. Just ask an NRA Senator if anyone should take away his/her gun?

Reminds me of casablanca (4, Funny)

voss (52565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287418)

Senator: Im shocked...SHOCKED theres p2p sharing going on
Senator's Son: Hey dad I just finished updating your music collection
Senator: Great!

Could this be applied to Microsoft's WGA? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287502)

Or any other program that sends/receives data without the user's explicit consent? (Those unenforceable EULA's don't count!)
Such information may not be a "file" per se, but definition of a 'file' loses it's meaning when it is being transmitted.

This is not censorship. This is a GOOD THING. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287652)

This is not censorship. It is attempting to make illegal the uninvited installation of P2P and related technologies, such as with malware. As a nice side effect, it would also make it illegal for idiot users to install P2P clients on their work machines without permission from the IT staff. This is a VERY FUCKING GOOD THING and it does not in any way infringe on anybody's rights nor is it censorship of any sort. You are still free to install and use P2P technologies on your own machines.

Re:This is not censorship. This is a GOOD THING. (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288184)

What it does, as written, is a good thing, but the law is ridiculously specific and has no reason to be so unless there's something more that they're not telling us. It would be like a law making it illegal to shoplift cigarette lighters that are between 4 and 8 centimeters long and colored in green or yellow. Someone tries to steal a black cigarette lighter, they have to be prosecuted under the preexisting laws against shoplifting.

The most charitable explanation I can come up with is that some industry people said that P2P is bad in a misleading way that stressed only the noncontroversial parts (perhaps they said something like "the industry lost billions of dollars to P2P software, some of which isn't even intentionally installed by the user...") and then some politicians took those misleading statements at face value, believing that that is what the industry actually wanted, and proposed a law based on them.

There are also more sinister possibilities. It could be harmless in itself, but a warning sign that the industry will buy more laws that are harmful. Some posters have suggested that it could affect liability if all P2P software is now assumed to be intentionally installed. It could be part of a "P2P is bad" propaganda campaign, or a relatively innocuous first step in a plan to gradually chip away at P2P software by putting arbitrary limits on it to "make it safer".

Think the other way around (1)

SAN1701 (537455) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287780)

Altough it seems a reasonable, positive, even obvious law, it might also be the first step to make it easier to sue people from sharing. If some dumb user does unawarely install something in his/her machine, not bothering to read some comprehensive, law-enforced EULA, and share some DMCA-protected content without knowing, seems to me that RIAA lawyers will have a much stronger case against them - that might be the motive they are being specific about P2P programs, and not every junk people put on their machines. IANAL, but it seems to me that "I didn't know these files were being shared" kind of defenses will hold much less under these new provisions, and it's possible this might be the hidden objective of this law. I hope some lawyer here in /., proves me wrong on this.

Anti-P2P? (1)

butlerm (3112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287832)

it was pretty likely that anti-P2P legislation would get proposed.

Anti-P2P? I do not think that word means what you think it does. If anything, this is arguably pro-P2P legislation, because the legal restriction of various nefarious practices will give compliant P2P software an air of legitimacy which it often lacks now. "We comply with all government regulations and mandates..."

The devil is in the details (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31287852)

First, has anyone actually read the language in the proposal? Do you think that the actual legislation is going to fit so nicely into the way its being described or do you realize that other law makers are going to add their own language and objectives when the law is passed? In the language of government what constitutes a P2P file sharing application?

If I'm a researcher, student or small, open source or independent developer that creates a new P2P "file sharing" protocol or prototype does that mean unless I specifically include notification or a feature the government feels complies with their regulations, that I become a criminal?

I guess my main concern is that the more we go forward with these "protection laws" the more, we as developers are becoming limited and I worry going forward am I going to need a background in law to write code?

The RIAA is clapping for a reason friends.

ANTI P2P?? (1)

zcold (916632) | more than 4 years ago | (#31287950)

Shouldn't they really consider ANTI-Internet legislation? I have a hard time believing p2p is the cause of the leaks... More like the internet is the cause...even then.. without the internet, I would still burn discs and pass them to friends and family, who also pass it on... Its going to happen..

nice to see our legislators hard at work (1)

Sterculius (1675612) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288076)

Oh, I see. Well that should work, since after all everyone using P2P is in the United States, and all the P2P software is written in the United States, and certainly there is nobody in the United States who would ever ignore one of our 47 billion laws against everything from chewing gum to brandishing a lint brush.

Does this apply just to files or to packets too? (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288156)

A file is a sequence of bits carrying information.

A packet is a sequence of bits carrying information.

Should this legislation not logically apply to the installation of all software that transmits data packets from my computer to some other computer?

Yeah, we need more pointless laws. (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31288232)

We should just keep passing pointless laws until our system is flooded with nothing but pointless laws and nothing useful can get done.

While I agree that software should tell the user what their files are being shared, only programs that are already illegal fail to do that. You know, malware, viruses, etc. This doesn't actually protect anyone from anything, even their own stupidity.

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