A hearing was scheduled Tuesday by the US House of Representatives, to determine the need of a law that would require peer-to-peer (P2P) software to warn users that their files may be shared. The focal point of the hearing is expected to involve a bill introduced by Rep. Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack in March, titled the “Informed P2P User Act.” While the bill’s primary target is P2P software, there is speculation that its grasp could ripple out to other frequently used software.
The proposed act will emplace a set of rules that deem it “unlawful” for P2P applications to share files unless a series of notification prompts haunt users. The rules state that consent to a “clear and conspicuous notice” regarding the P2P software’s features would have to be made during installation. Additionally, the program must repeat the cycle of notice-and-consent each time it’s executed. Mack’s vague definition of P2P software is interpreted as any application which allows files to be marked for transfer, transferred and received.
While the bill’s description of P2P applications is accurate, does it not envelope countless other aspects of computing? CNET notes that every copy of Windows, GNU/Linux and Mac OS X sold in recent times incorporates a command-line FTP client which fits the definition. Are Apple, the Free Software Foundation and Microsoft all going to be tagged for “unlawful” practices? Where do Web browsers and IM services stand?