File-Sharing 'Self-Help' Bill Decried As 'Anti-Consumer'
Civil-liberties groups and some copyright lawyers cried foul yesterday (July 25) as Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would remove liability from copyright holders that employCivil-liberties groups and some copyright lawyers cried foul yesterday (July 25) as Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would remove liability from copyright holders that employ "self-help" technological measures to address infringement on peer-to-peer networks, Billboard Bulletin reports.
Robin Gross, an intellectual-property lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the legislation amounts to "vigilanteism in the extreme" and is evidence of a "paranoid" music industry that is unwilling to experiment with new business models.
The backlash came despite the fact that the bill is narrowly crafted, with built-in safeguards. According to its sponsors, the bill would allow copyright holders to employ such measures as interdiction, file-blocking, and spoofing on peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks. However, it would not allow copyright holders to "send viruses through P2P networks, destroy files, hack into the personal files of P2P users, or indiscriminately block lawful file-trading," Berman said in his introduction.
It also would not allow copyright owners -- whose self-help measures would be monitored by the Department of Justice -- to damage the property of intermediaries, including Internet service providers.
Still, Peter Jaszi, a professor of copyright law at Washington, D.C.'s American University, calls the bill "violently anti-consumer." He adds: "It seems as if they will not only be allowed to enter the computers of massive file sharers, but that of my daughter. And then there's the privacy issue: If this were a hard-goods [allegation] of piracy, they'd have to go get a warrant. But here it's enough if they have reason to believe there's something beyond fair-use file-sharing to employ these technologies."