Have you seen the Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography Act of 2003? It’s a bill introduced by Rep. Joseph R. Pitts [PA-16] designed to put some pretty severe regulation on providers of P2P software on the ever popular pretense of “protecting the children.” The logic is outlined under the heading of Findings and it boils down to the ideas that A) P2P programs are popular, B) P2P programs are used to distribute pornography including child porn, C) 40% of P2P users are juveniles, D) juveniles can be inadvertently exposed to porn through P2P programs, and E) by golly, the Feds should fucking do something about this! So the bill proposes the following:
(a) ACTS PROHIBITED- It is unlawful for any person to distribute peer-to-peer file trading software, or to authorize or cause peer-to-peer file trading software to be distributed by another person, in interstate commerce in a manner that violates the regulations prescribed under subsection (b)(2).
So what does section (b)(2) have to say?
(2) require any person who distributes, or authorizes or causes another person to distribute, peer-to-peer file trading software in interstate commerce to—
(A) provide clear and prominent notice to each recipient of peer-to-peer file trading software, before the peer-to-peer file trading software is provided to the recipient, that use thereof may expose the user to pornography, illegal activities, and security and privacy threats;
(B) check for the do-not-install beacon described in subsection (c)(1) and not transmit peer-to-peer file trading software to any computer with such beacon;
(C) obtain verification of majority, or if a recipient is a juvenile obtain verifiable parental consent, before the peer-to-peer file trading software is provided to the recipient;
(D) ask whether or not each juvenile recipient of peer-to-peer file trading software is a child under the age of 13;
(E) comply with the provisions of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (15 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.) as to all information collected from children in connection with the distribution of peer-to-peer file trading software;
(F) ensure that the peer-to-peer file trading software has the capability to be readily disabled or uninstalled by a user thereof, and prominent means to access clear information concerning the availability and use of that capability;
(G) if the peer-to-peer file trading software has the capability of automatically causing a user’s computer to function as a supernode or other focal point for the transmission of files or data, or information about the availability of files or data, among other computers on which such software is used, ensure that such software does not exercise that capability unless the user receives clear and prominent notice thereof and thereafter takes affirmative steps to enable that capability;
(H) if the peer-to-peer file trading software has the capability of disabling or circumventing security or other protective software on, or features of, the user’s computer or network, including a firewall, software that protects against viruses or other malicious code or a do-not-install beacon or other parental control, ensure that such peer-to-peer file trading software does not exercise that capability unless the user receives clear and prominent notice thereof and thereafter takes affirmative steps to enable that capability;
(I) if such person does not reside in the United States, designate a resident agent for service of process in the United States, and file with the Commission such designation and the address of the office or usual place of residence of the agent;
(J) maintain reasonable records of its compliance with the requirements set forth in this paragraph; and
(K) establish and maintain reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information contained in such records.
Damn, that’s quite a bit of regulation there. I especially like the bit about requiring the software recognize and abide by a “do-not-install beacon” on the PC. What’s that? You’ve never heard of a do-not-install beacon? Never have I as it seems this is something new that this legislation will mandate as being a requirement on your PC in section (c)(1).
(c) TECHNOLOGICAL MEASURES- The Commission shall—
(1) not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, in consultation with the Under Secretary for Technology of the Department of Commerce, develop and make readily available to the public functional requirements for standard `do-not-install’ beacons that provide an effective technological means for parents to record on their computers their desire that users not install or use peer-to-peer file trading software on those computers;
(2) make available to the public a list of do-not-install beacon products that have been certified by their producers as conforming to such functional requirements; and
(3) if in any study required by section 6, it appears to the Commission that any commonly-used peer-to-peer file trading software does not have the capability required by subsection (b)(2)(F), promptly make readily available to the public information necessary to enable parents to disable or uninstall such software on their computers, and if necessary to allow parents to do so readily, develop and make available technological means for parents to disable or uninstall such software on their computers.
OK, so here’s my first question: If this sort of legislation is necessary because parents aren’t taking the time to be aware of what their kids have installed on their PCs and what they’re doing with them, then what the hell crack are these guys smoking that makes them think these same parents are going to take the time to A) install any kind of a do-not-install beacon once it’s available, B) consult a list of approved products, and C) take the time to uninstall anything that doesn’t meet the standards called for in this legislation? For that matter what, exactly, does this bill regulate? That’s defined in section (b)(1):
(b) REGULATIONS- Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Commission shall promulgate regulations that—
(1) define the term `peer-to-peer file trading software’ for purposes of this Act, with such definition to encompass computer software that enables the transmission of computer files or data over the Internet or any other public network of computers and that has as its primary function the capability to do all of the following—
(A) enable a computer on which such software is used to transmit files or data to another such computer;
(B) enable the user of one such computer to request the transmission of files or data from another such computer; and
(C) enable the user of one such computer to designate files or data available for transmission to another such computer, but which definition excludes, to the extent otherwise included, software products legitimately marketed and distributed primarily for the operation of business and home networks, the networks of Internet access providers, or the Internet itself;
In short, it includes everything that allows any kind of peer-to-peer networking unless it’s “legitimately marketed” in a certain way. That’s not confusing at all. Clear as mud.
But hey, as long as they don’t have to tell their constituents that they should try being BETTER FRIGGIN’ PARENTS and PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEIR KIDS ARE DOING you CLUELESS DUMBFUCKS then it’s all good, right? So what if it’ll create another huge governmental bureaucracy that’ll costs billions to administer and enforce? Think of it as “job creation” while “doing something about the porn problem.” Because without P2P programs you don’t have to ever worry that your kids will see porn.
At this point the bill appears to still be in committee.