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California bill seeks to cripple P2P

A bill introduced in California’s Legislature has raised the possibility of jail time for developers of file-swapping software who don’t stop trades of copyrighted movies and songs online, CNET News reported.

The proposal, introduced by Los Angeles Sen. Kevin Murray, takes direct aim at companies that distribute software such as Kazaa, eDonkey or Morpheus. If passed and signed into law, it could expose file-swapping software developers to fines of up to $2,500 per charge, or a year in jail, if they don’t take “reasonable care” in preventing the use of their software to swap copyrighted music, movies, or child pornography.

Peer-to-peer software companies and their allies immediately criticized the bill as a danger to technological innovation, and as potentially unconstitutional.

The bill comes as much of the technology world is waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the legal status of file-swapping technology. Federal courts have twice ruled that peer-to-peer software companies are not legally responsible for the illegal actions of people using their products. Hollywood studios and record companies appealed those decisions to the nation’s top court, which is expected to rule on the issue this summer.

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