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California To Set P2P Policy

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered the State CIO to come up with a policy for the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing applications by state personnel.

While the order prohibited the use of state resources to illegally download copyrighted material, it specifically allowed for legitimate uses of the controversial software -- in moderation.

"Today California is taking a stand against use of state resources for illegal downloading of this material and standing in support of the work of these talented Californians," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Schwarzenegger said he wants to make sure that state computers aren't used to contribute to what he called "huge losses of revenue to the state's valuable entertainment industry."

"So many of the entertainment industry's talented musicians, actors, writers and programmers devote their careers to creating products that enrich our society, Schwarzenegger's statement said. "We need to do our part to protect the creative and intellectual property they work so hard to create for the rest of us."

J. Clark Kelso, the state CIO and a professor of law at the University of the Pacific, was charged by the governor with creating a statewide policy for P2P on state computers that protects the rights of copyright holders while allowing for legitimate uses.

"We were very much aware that there are both legitimate and illegitimate uses of this technology, and that the definition of what constitutes an illegitimate use might very well change both as technology changes and as the law develops," Kelso told internetnews.com. "So we opted for an executive order that permits the State CIO to develop the State's policy and then to revise that policy as necessary as we get more and more experience with the issue."

The executive order, signed last Thursday, pointed out that P2P often is used to swap music, movies and other copyrighted material, and also poses security risks. The language of the order makes it clear that it's not tarring all apps with the same brush.

The order states that only "some" P2P software could give outsiders access to confidential information, and "some" can act as vectors for viruses and malware .

After the laundry list of potential abuses and risks, it adds that "peer-to-peer technology holds the potential for many legitimate uses."

The executive order specifically requests Kelso not to prohibit legitimate file sharing within or among federal, state or local government entities and makes the head of each executive agency responsible for complying with the statewide policy.

Kelso said he would form a task force that includes technology experts from the executive branch of state government, a representative from the Department of Personnel Administration to advise on union issues, someone from the Department of Finance and participants from legislature, the courts and the University of California and California State University systems.

"I'm going to push hard for quick action," Kelso said. "I'd like to be able to set a policy by the end of this year, but we'll have to see how complex this gets."

The order won't apply to the legislative and judicial branches of government, nor shall it apply to the constitutional officers of the state, but it does apply to the University of California and the California State University System.

In fact, the state government already is using P2P software. Groove, an enterprise-oriented application designed for small teams, is a component of the national Homeland Security Information Network, used by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Andrew Mahon, director of strategic marketing for Beverly, Mass.-based Groove Networks, said that the file-sharing policies of enterprise customers typically have two key points addressing the scope and purpose of the file-sharing. He said that curtailing the number of users in a network limits the potential for abuse. Also, he said, "If the primary use of the file-sharing network is working on project together, that's permissible. They're sharing files specifically to get work done."

Wayne Rosso, the former president of P2P software maker Grokster and a board member of P2P United, an industry-lobbying group, said, "I'm thrilled that the governor recognizes that P2P technology is used for totally legitimate purposes. To me, it's the same as saying that police can use guns as long as they use them within the limits of the law."