US seeks warning label for P2P software

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US seeks warning label for P2P software

User consent could be required to share information.

Warning messages about piracy could soon start appearing in peer-to-peer (P2P) applications if the US government agrees to new legislation.

The new ruling would be a substitute to the HR 1319 Act and has been proposed by Democrat Henry Waxman, who said that he hopes to "prevent the inadvertent disclosure of information on a computer through certain P2P file sharing programs without first providing notice and obtaining consent from an owner or authorised user of the computer".

The Informed P2P User Act (PDF), put forward by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sets out rules aimed at curbing the inadvertent sharing of illegal and sensitive information by providing a "clear and conspicuous notice", and requiring the " informed consent" of the user before files are shared.

The legislation also lays out rules to prevent any surreptitious installations of P2P software, insisting that users must be warned before the software is installed and must be able to uninstall it easily if they want to.

The bill describes P2P software as all applications that make files on a user's computer "available for searching and copying to one or more other computers", or allows "the searching of files on the computer on which such program is installed and the copying of any such file to another computer".

If the motion is passed in the US, a similar proposition could then be made for the European Union and other jurisdictions.

Despite the vast number of legitimate uses for P2P applications, the software is often regarded solely as a channel for the dissemination of pirated content, and application developers and torrent sites have both come under heavy fire over the years.

Similarly, the debates by the EU and the US Federal Communications Commission about net neutrality could have a fundamental impact on the future of technologies like P2P, which is viewed by many ISPs as a major drain on resources and something over which they have little or no control.

Another US representative, Democrat Edolphus Towns, is also pushing for P2P and similar file-sharing applications to be banned from government computers and those of government contractors to help avoid sensitive information being accidentally, or intentionally, leaked.

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