Calif. Bill to Outlaw P2P Program Distribution

Jeff Berg
SACRAMENTO — California state Sen. Kevin Murray has introduced legislation that will punish the creators, distributors and promoters of file-sharing software with fines and jail time for each instance of copyright violation found on the network.

Senate Bill 96 calls for extending the existing laws that punish infringers to include those who “enable” infringers by circulating software that can possibly be used to circulate copyrighted works.

“It’s not like some small percentage [of the traded files] is illegal,” Murray, a democrat from Culver City, told the Mercury News. “It’s either music or video or video games or software, which is being transferred in violation of copyright.”

The bill specifically names “any person or entity that sells, advertises, or distributes peer-to-peer file sharing software,” and which does not exercise “reasonable care” in preventing illegal use of the software.

Persons prosecuted under the proposed law would face fines up to $2,500 and up to a year in county jail for each instance of a copyrighted work found on the network.

Critics of the proposed bill say that it could effectively outlaw the development of computer networking software, the operation of web servers and might even effect operating system programmers.

The bill also bears a striking resemblance to the proposed federal Induce Act, they say.

“This is a Hollywood sequel that never should have been made,” said Will Rodger, director of public policy for the Computer & Communications Industry Association. “Induce failed miserably in Congress, and we feel it do the same in California.”

“We have never had this level of regulation and control by a government over what technology companies can build and how they design their tools,” Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Jason Schultz said.

Murray, who worked as a talent agent for the William Morris Agency before becoming a state legislator, was also behind a previous anti-file sharing bill last year that requires individuals who send a copyrighted work to 10 or more people to provide a valid email address. That law went into effect on Jan. 1.