File-Sharers Face Harsh Warning

Gretchen Gallen
CYBERSPACE – File-sharers, one of the most persecuted groups of Internet users, could soon face harsh warnings from state lawmakers that peer-to-peer (P2P) activity is a form of aiding and abetting deceptive business practices.

A letter allegedly scribed by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and obtained by several news organizations states that file-sharing networks such as Kazaa and Morpheus should warn users that they face computer viruses, copyright infringement lawsuits, and other risks when they log on to search for music, movies, and P2P content.

"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," the letter stated. "File-sharing software also is increasingly becoming a means to disseminate computer worms and viruses. 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."

Lockyer's particular concerns, as outlined in the letter, pertain to P2P involvement in transporting child pornography across the Internet and protecting children from accidentally downloading adult content.

There have reportedly been several drafts of the letter, a copy of which has been traced to a high-ranking member of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Lockyer intends to start collecting signatures from other state attorneys general at a national meeting in Washington this week, according to those who have read the letter, although Lockyer's office denies that the letter ever existed. There is speculation that a revised copy of the letter will be made public as soon as the Attorney General collects enough signatures from fellow lawmakers.

Lockyer's office has stated that the Attorney General has been concerned with the illegalities surrounding P2P file sharing and continued complaints from the entertainment industry that its coffers are being depleted through copyright infringement.

"Over the coming months, we will begin focusing more attention on the risks P2P software programs pose to consumers in our States," the letter stated. "We take seriously our responsibility to protect consumers and ensure that the laws of our States are respected. In the future, we will not hesitate to take whatever actions we deem necessary to ensure that you fulfill your duties as a responsible corporate citizen.