Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography Act of 2003

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.

Found via Eschaton who found it through Unqualified Offerings.

6 thoughts on “Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography Act of 2003

  1. Hi Les!

    Now I will agree with you that such legislation is likely to be a wasted and wasteful effort (kids will probably just go to some site where they can find out how to circumvent the beacons).

    But have you any better suggestion how to do this? I mean, paying attention to what your kids are doing is fine - and goes a long way. But you should also realize that you are an exception - most parents know a lot less about technical issues like this than their kids. And they can’t peer over their kids shoulder all the time either - or read the logs/history of the computer or look through their kids files all the time.

    And what about a kids right to privavcy, even from his parents? I’d been freakin’ if my dad had looked into my files (thankfully I was almost adult when the ‘net came into widespread use).

    I’m not dissing you - its just a question that I’ve been posing myself, seeing that one day I’m likely to have children too. How do you supervise them in such areas?

  2. I don’t think there is a better way than greater parental involvement. It doesn’t take a lot of technical savvy to keep tabs on what your kids are using their computers for. Depending on the relationship you have with your kids you can start just by asking them what they’re doing.

    I look at it this way: A computer is a tool and like any tool it can cause as much harm as good. Most reasonable parents wouldn’t let their kids make use of a chainsaw or a gun without at least making sure their kids aren’t going to misuse them in some way, and the better parents will require supervision during use of these tools. The dangers in using a computer are obviously not as overt nor life threatening, but can be harmful just the same.

    When my daughter got her own PC and a connection into our broadband I made it clear at the time that I would be monitoring her usage, what she installs, what she’s looking at, and so on as a condition of her being allowed access to the tools. We’ve had more than one talk about what she’s likely to run into and what I expect her to avoid and there’s at least one “chat room” program I won’t allow her to use at this point because folks were trying to involve her in sexually explicit conversations. As she gets older I’ll probably allow her greater autonomy, but her choice for the time being is simple: either accept that I’m going to be paying attention and setting limits or don’t use it at all. It’s worked so far.

  3. In this day and age parents can use all the help they can get but increased legislation isn’t the answer.  Increased parental training and awareness wouldn’t hurt.

    Parents don’t need to be technical gurus but they do need to know what the fuck their kids are doing.  I’ve seen parents fork over their hard earned cash for all sorts of tech gadgets for kids and they have no clue as to the purpose of the device. 

    I think that child’s right to privacy is a subjective term and should be applied with discretion.  If parents are looking out for the best interest of the child they WILL look into his/her files.  It’s their responsibilty to do so.  Now the amount of intrusion they go into is where the privacy becomes subjective.  They needn’t read through all the puppy love letters but they should know that those files are just puppy love letters.

    I suspect that this particular legislation is going to get bogged down fairy quickly because it is so broad and vague.

    Who do they plan to get to enforce this legislation?  Dept. of Homeland Security?

  4. Well, such legislations currently faces an uphill task to prove that they are not unconstitutional.

    The supreme court in a 9-0 decision in Reno v ACLU held that the 1996 Communications Decency Act as an abridgement of the first amendment’s freedom of speech protection. One of the reasons is that the CDA is vague and that its terms are overtly broad therefore limiting content for adults to what is suitable for children. It was not the idea of censorship per se that cost the decision but it being too over inclusive. That could be the reason why future legislations are getting very specific to circumvent this decision.

    The later decision ACLU v Reno II (Ashcroft v ACLU) that dealt with the Children Online Protection Act (COPA) prevented the government from enforcing COPA for being unconstitutional. This is despite the legislation being made to tailor to the decision in the Reno v ACLU case relating to CDA. The reasoning is somewhat similar as allowing COPA legislation would because of the unique nature of the internet “essentially require every web communication to abide by the most restrictive community’s standards.”

    It seems that this peer to peer act is another attempt to specifically tailor the legislation to the two previous court’s decisions that strike down previous attempts due to it being over inclusive. One thing in its favour is perhaps the focus on peer to peer rather than the entire internet and another is its specific provisions telling people what exactly to do. Although b(2)(E) relating to COPA may be a bit questionable.

  5. Opps, sorry in my rush to scan through the article I realised I made a mistake.

    I thought the new legislation was referring to COPA rather than COPPA. So nothing wrong with b(2)(E). Since it is COPA that is striked down rather than COPPA

  6. I agree this is a problem!!!!! Well while Homeland security is mustering up support on this p2p child porn arrest, Did any one know ,they allowed child porn to keep being distrubated on Kaaza. All in the name of money for thier cyber smuggling agency.I have a minor son whos being charged with 19 counts of distrubution of c. porn. His offense he down loaded for 47 hours and 28 minutes in that time he p2pd a lone file not knowing! child porn.and deleted it During this time Special agents from Homeland,downloaded this lone file back and now are filing charges. This is the patriot act that allowed them to monitor Kazaa withput a search warrant.See what can happen to a good kid just for being a kid.My sn an enlisted Marine has never been in trouble.Now he faces 265 years in jail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.