Authors of USPTO Report Call for State and Federal Investigations
WASHINGTON D.C. - Today, the Progress and Freedom Foundation released a new report on inadvertent filesharing by the authors of Filesharing Programs and "Technological Features to Induce Users to Share," a groundbreaking analysis published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in March of 2007. This new report, "Inadvertent Filesharing Sharing Revisited: Assessing LimeWire's Responses to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform," seeks to enhance understanding of the causes of inadvertent sharing by analyzing (1) recently released data that the distributors of the program LimeWire gave to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform before its July 24, 2007 hearing on inadvertent sharing, and (2) the efficacy of efforts to improve the LimeWire program since the Committee's hearing. The authors conclude that law enforcement should investigate whether filesharing programs deliberately perpetuate inadvertent filesharing.
In the paper, Tom Sydnor, Director of the Center for the Study of Digital Property at The Progress and Freedom Foundation, Lee Hollaar, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah, and John Knight, Graduate Research Assistant at the Univeristy of Utah, first analyze the newly released 47-page "Response" to the USPTO Report that LimeWire, LLC provided to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform this summer. They conclude that LimeWire's Response neither identifies material deficiencies in the analysis and conclusions of the USPTO Report nor offers credible, good-faith explanations of why LimeWire deployed five "features" that were known to cause users to share infringing and sensitive files inadvertently.
The authors then analyze whether changes made to LimeWire since the hearing have implemented CEO Mark Gorton's pledge "to do everything in my power to fight inadvertent file-sharing." Specifically, the authors assess whether LimeWire has implemented meaningful changes that should significantly reduce inadvertent sharing. They conclude that LimeWire has implemented potentially meaningful changes in ways that repeat past errors and will tend to perpetuate inadvertent sharing by both new and existing users of the LimeWire program.
The results of these two analyses lead the authors to renew the conclusion that they drew in the USPTO Report. State and federal law-enforcement agencies should aggressively "investigate to determine whether distributors of popular filesharing programs intended to blunt the deterrent effects of copyright-enforcement lawsuits by duping users of their program into sharing files inadvertently."
Sydnor said that the results of this new analysis of LimeWire's responses to the Committee and its hearing show why we need an aggressive government response to an inadvertent-sharing problem that persisted and worsened long after many of its causes were identified and widely publicized:
"A few years ago, distributors of many filesharing programs were telling Congress and the FTC that the notion that users of their programs could still share files inadvertently was ‘an urban myth, no more accurate—though easily as persistent—as reports of alligators in New York's storm drains.' Since then, inadvertent sharing has become a documented threat to national, military, corporate and personal security and a known cause of identity theft. Unfortunately, the distributors of LimeWire have neither credibly explained why they deployed features that were known to cause inadvertent sharing nor effectively remediated the resulting problem.
"On October 17, 2007, the Chairman, Ranking Member and 17 other Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform called for a federal investigation into the causes of inadvertent sharing. Our new analysis confirms the need for both state and federal law-enforcement agencies to aggressively and thoroughly investigate inadvertent sharing."
"Inadvertent Filesharing Revisited: Assessing LimeWire's Responses to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform," is available on the PFF website.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.