Proposed Bill Calls for File-Sharing App User Warnings

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives is looking at a bill Tuesday that would make peer-to-peer programs and other applications inform users that their files might be shared.

The legislation was introduced in March by California Republican, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (one-time wife of ex-singer-producer Congressman Sonny Bono). Under the measure, H.R. 1319, The Informed P2P User Act, P2P applications, Web browsers, FTP clients, instant message programs and other similar apps and utilities that involve any form of sharing would all be ordered to warn consumers their files and data may be at risk.

The bill would force all P2P-related programs and utilities to provide "clear and conspicuous notice" of features and also obtain a user's "informed consent." Additionally, the app or program would have to provide both the notice and consent wording every time it is used.

Falling under the legislation as "P2P" applications are any program/utility with the ability "to designate files available for transmission to another computer, to transmit files directly to another computer and to request the transmission of files from another computer."

As observed by CNET, all recent Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux and Mac OS X computers include an FTP client that can perform such functions, but do not provide the warning under the bill's guidelines, so parent companies could be fined if those warnings are included in some form of updates.

The timeline for such updates would have to be hashed out between the government and numerous manufacturers, should the bill pass. Also possibly facing a charge of being "unlawful" under the law if not providing the warning and consent would be Web browsers that assist with all manner of uploads or downloads.

The hearing will be held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. 

The bill submission follows recent news that specs and data regarding the President's Marine One helicopter may have been leaked through a P2P network to an Iranian IP address, an incident now under scrutiny by another House committee with LimeWire suspected as the P2P application that was used.