P2Ps Lock Horns With Congress

Cory Kincaid
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In September of this year, a coalition of P2P companies joined together to form P2P United, a trade group whose intention was to develop a code of conduct for file-sharing networks that exchange copyrighted material over the Internet, as well as put a face to an otherwise anonymous presence on the web.

But the language between P2P United and congress is getting edgy as lawmakers threaten to draft legislation that will impose stiff regulations on P2P activity and intercept the flow of pornography over the Internet.

The bullets starting flying last week when U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham sent a letter calling on P2Ps to obey copyright laws and cease the distribution of pornography, especially child pornography, over P2P networks. The Graham letter was co-signed by Republican and Democrat Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Gordon Smith, Dick Durbin, and John Cornyn.

However, there are no proven statistics that P2Ps serve as conduits for child porn on a regular, accountable basis.

The letter was sent to the group that founded P2P United, executives from Grokster, Morpheus, Bearshare, Blubster, eDonkey2000, LimeWire, and Streamcast Networks. Kazaa is not a member of the coalition.

"Purveyors of peer-to-peer technology have legal and moral obligations to conform to copyright laws and end the pornographic trade over these networks," the letter stated. "These programs expose our children to sexually explicit materials and provide an anonymous venue for child pornographers to hide behind the veil of technology."

The letter from members of congress strongly urged P2P United to take more responsibility for the content that gets traded across their networks. The letter also suggested P2P networks provide some type of warning notice to users regarding the illegalities of using file-sharing networks, in addition to installing copyright and pornography filters in P2P software.

P2P United responded to the letter by calling congressional representatives "misinformed," and accusing them of using the same tactics as the music and movie industries to cast a negative public view of P2Ps in hopes of running them all out of business.

The coalition is calling for a face-to-face meeting with members of congress in which file-sharing executives, led by P2P United founder Adam Eisgrau, hope to educate the governing body on the file-sharing industry as a whole and demystify conceptions that P2P networks are solely used for nefarious purposes.

In his response to members of congress, Eisgrau reminded lawmakers that many P2Ps have taken concerted steps to stop the exchange of child porn over file-sharing networks, in addition to educating parents on how to protect their tech-savvy children from offensive material.

In a presentation before the senate in September, when P2P United was just formed, Esigrau said, "Like all right-thinking people, our members are sickened by child pornography and regard misuse of the Internet for its dissemination as reprehensible. When it comes to web-based child porn, however, technology isn't the perpetrator -- criminals are. These deviants have misused every legitimate technology, from the printing press to telephones, video, instant messaging and Internet search engines, to satisfy their lurid and illegal appetites."

In recent months, members of the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America have made a point to publicly defile P2P networks as incubators for child pornography, identity theft, and illegal activity. But since the downing of Napster, P2Ps have never been more popular or widely used.

"We want to loudly shout it from the rooftops for people to ask us about this exciting new technology. P2P United exists to correct the record," Eisgrau told InternetNews.

Only a few months ago, P2P United had been in talks with members of the recording industry trying to find more workable ways of reimbursing artists for infringed content. The trade group also pledged to make a bigger effort to curb underage access to file-swapping services, and to take a more responsible role in putting a stop to the unregulated sharing of copyrighted material.

P2P United also expressed an allegiance to law enforcement and task force initiatives to eliminate child pornography from P2Ps and to instill to the best of their abilities a more responsible code of conduct among sharers of pornography, music, films, and extraneous data.