Senator Plans P2P Summit

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman plans to convene a peer-to-peer (P2P) summit within the next two months in hopes of avoiding a federally mandated response to online piracy. The Minnesota Republican said the answers to protecting copyrighted material are more likely to be found through technological innovation rather than passage of more laws.

After holding several P2P hearings last year, Congress is dealing with multiple pieces of proposed legislation concerning the distribution, use and design of P2P networking software. Most of the proposed laws are intended to stop and/or penalize file sharing of copyrighted material, particularly music and movies.

Other bills are aimed at protecting minors who use P2P software to inadvertently download pornographic material, especially child pornography. The bill would, in effect, limit the availability of P2P software in the process.

Tom Steward, Coleman’s communications director, told,”solutions are being developed in the private sector but not all the parties are talking with other. We want to get everyone in the same room.”

Steward said Internet service providers (ISP), hardware and software executives, P2P companies, entertainment industry leaders, technology experts, privacy advocates, academics and entrepreneurs will be invited to the Washington roundtable to discuss the issue.

“In 1998, Congress passed legislation that was intended to protect the entertainment industry and copyrights,” Coleman said last Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. “Yet, within less than five years, the legislation was bypassed by technology. With the advent of technology such as peer-to-peer networking, law, technology and ethics are now not in synch. We need to find other ways to solve the problems rather than issuing lawsuits and lobbying Congress to pass tougher laws.”

Coleman is a leading critic of the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) legal tactics in suing individual file swappers. In August, Coleman sent a letter to the RIAA expressing concern the music industry was in danger of abusing its broad-based subpoena authority to determine the extent of illegal file sharing in the U.S.

By October, Coleman chaired a hearing on the impact P2P technology has on the music industry. Coleman said the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) fines are unreasonable and force accused infringers into settling lawsuits when they might otherwise consider contesting the allegations.

A federal appeals court in December rejected the RIAA’s use of the controversial subpoenas, but that decision prompted several in Congress to call for amending the DMCA to restore the RIAA’s power to go after downloaders.

“I believe we need the technology experts, the computer industry, the peer-to-peer industry, the software industry, the entertainment industry, the privacy experts and the business experts to come together and discuss positive and meaningful solutions to this challenge facing a major segment of our economy,” said Coleman.

Coleman added that he was not “interested in assigning blame, or pointing fingers. I want to bring together the great minds that have a role to play in this matter and develop constructive measures that can address these challenges, and determine an appropriate role for Congress to play in helping to find some common ground.”

The senator stressed the answers “are not going to come solely from government.”

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