Bill Targets Peer-To-Peer Piracy

In another approach to the seemingly intractable problem of electronic piracy over peer-to-peer networks, lawmakers have proposed letting copyright holders use a variety of tactics to protect their material.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) along with Reps. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), would limit the liability of content owners who protect themselves with antipiracy tactics including "interdiction, decoys, redirection, file-blocking, spoofs or other technological tools," Berman said.

He said such tactics are now blocked by state and federal laws, including the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, that were never intended to apply to such self-help activities.

"In other words, while P2P technology is free to innovate new and more efficient methods of distribution that further exacerbate the piracy problem, copyright owners are not equally free to craft technological responses," Berman said. "This is not fair."

Copyright owners would have to register their "technological responses" with the Justice Department.

Hollywood has long endorsed stricter copyright-enforcement measures, but the company that created the Morpheus file-trading software called the plan an invitation to "vigilante hackers."

"Today, cyber warfare was declared by the Hollywood Congressman, which many predict will effectively shut down peer-to-peer networking," StreamCast Networks CEO Steve Griffin said in a statement.