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CONTACT: Amy Smorodin
July 29, 2009
(202) 289-8928
P2P Software Features Encourage Inadvertent Sharing
Sydnor Testifies for U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

WASHINGTON D.C. - Certain distributors of popular file-sharing programs have repeatedly failed to prevent, and may have knowingly caused and perpetuated, inadvertent file-sharing, explained PFF Senior Fellow Thomas Sydnor in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. At the hearing today on "Inadvertent File Sharing over Peer-to-Peer Networks: How It Endangers Citizens and Jeopardizes National Security," Sydnor urged the Committee to refer the matter to appropriate law enforcement agencies.

In his testimony, Sydnor, PFF Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for the Study of Digital Property, concluded that inadvertent sharing cannot be remediated by self-regulation by distributors of file-sharing programs because certain distributors have repeatedly violated every set of self-regulations proposed—including a Code of Conduct and a set of Volutary Best Practices that they drafted. 

Sydnor then identified three critical defects present in every released version of the LimeWire 5 file-sharing program: (1) every version is dangerously unpredictable and can share all of a user's personal document, image, video, and audio files just by being installed, (2) every version violates critical provisions of the LimeWire's own Voluntary Best Practices, and (3) every version contains a feature that LimeWire itself knew to be a needlessly dangerous of means of ensuring that one reasonable mistake by a child could inadvertently share thousands of a family's most sensitive personal files.

"In short, the problem of inadvertent sharing has persisted for nine years because distributors of file-sharing programs like LimeWire LLC have repeatedly responded to even the most serious and well-documented concerns about inadvertent sharing with half-measures, misrepresentations, whitewash, and other conduct that, considered in its entirety, could strongly suggest bad faith—an intent to cause and perpetuate inadvertent sharing," Sydnor explained.  Consequently, the widespread, well-documented breaches of national, military, corporate, and family security caused by inadvertent sharing may be "nothing more—or less—than the acceptable 'collateral damage' of schemes intended to trick users into sharing popular music and movies, the types of files that drive high volumes of traffic toward file-sharing networks."

Sydnor states that, in light of this evidence, Congress should pursue a two-pronged remedial strategy. First, this issue should be formally referred to law-enforcement agencies possessing relevant civil and criminal enforcement authority.  Second, Sydnor urges Congress to support efforts to amend H.R. 1319, The Informed P2P User Act, in order to grant the Federal Trade Commission additional targeted enforcement powers.

Sydnor's written testimony is available on the PFF website.  He is also the author of the recent PFF paper, "Inadvertent File-Sharing Re-Invented: The Dangerous Design of LimeWire 5." He also co-authored the 2007 PFF paper, Inadvertent Filesharing Revisited: Assessing LimeWire's Responses to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. While serving as copyright advisor to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Sydnor was lead author of another empirical study of the causes of inadvertent file-sharing, Filesharing Programs and Technological Features to Induce Users to Share.  He has previously testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and testified before the House Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee on the same topic.

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.



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