IDG News Service
Does File Trading Fund Terrorism?

Industry execs claim peer-to-peer networks pose more than just legal problems.

Grant Gross, IDG News Service Thursday, March 13, 2003

WASHINGTON -- A congressional hearing on the links between terrorism, organized crime, and the illegal trading of copyrighted material produced more complaints about college students using peer-to-peer networks and other governments sanctioning copyright violations than it did evidence of nefarious connections.
[...]
Criminal Charges
Representative John Carter, (R-Texas), suggested that college students would stop downloading if some were prosecuted and received sentences of 33 months or longer, like the defendants in the DOJ's Operation Buccaneer. "I think it'd be a good idea to go out and actually bust a couple of these college kids," Carter said. "If you want to see college kids duck and run, you let them read the papers and somebody's got a 33-month sentence in the federal penitentiary for downloading copyrighted materials."

So totally ridiculous it verges on insane. So, is this the first step in the trying to get Larry Lessig arrested as a terrorist?

Found on Dave Farber's IP list. Couldn't find a link to the actual article, so linked to the article in the IP archives. If someone sends me the link to the IDG page, I will put it up... Thanks Milad!
Update: "file sharing" in title changed to "file trading". Thanks Emile. Fixed the tag.

9 Comments

I hate to disagree with you Joi, but why is it insane to prosecute people who are making use of products without paying for them?

This is actually against the law in the U.S., so shouldn't they be prosecuted?

Joi, your headline says, "Industry execs claim file sharing funds terrorism." But the article itself says:

Part of the hearing rehashed complaints about file-trading by college students over P-to-P networks, covered in previous hearings and statements from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). No one at the hearing connected P-to-P trading with the financing of terrorism or organized crime.

In reading your headline, I equated "file sharing" with "peer-to-peer," yet the article explicitly states that no link was made between P2P and the funding of terrorism.

What am I missing here?

Frank: the claim was that there was a link and they found no evidence.

But when subcommittee chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, asked Malcolm for examples of cases where file trading was connected to terrorism, Malcolm said he couldn't give concrete examples. "It would surprise me greatly if the number were not large," Malcolm added. "This is an easy enterprise to get into; the barriers of entry are very small, and the profits are huge."
Trevor: I think the insanity is the scale of the punishment being recommended. From IP
Mary Shaw

From: Mary Shaw
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 09:48:15 -0500
To: Dave Farber
Subject: Re: [IP] Does File Trading Fund Terrorism?

OK, let's throw some college kid in the slammer for 33 months (where on
earth did that number come from) for stealing a few hundred dollars worth of
DVDs. But only if we throw the Enron execs and their confederates in
Andersen in the same slammer for proportionally long sentences -- that would
be about 33 billion months, wouldn't it?

Have we lost all sense of proportion?

[ yes we have -- in more ways than one djf]

Mary Shaw

Frank: I will change the title to "file trading" instead of "file sharing"

There is much colorful rhetoric going on in IP debates. For example calling copyright violators "pirates" (which is armed robbery on the high seas).

And now even that doesn't seem to be enough: Let's call the kids "terrorists" instead.

I've made a few suggestions on possible rhetorical counterpunches here.

Rereading the article, I'm confused. At one point, the author says (emphasis mine in both quotes):

But when subcommittee chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, asked Malcolm for examples of cases where file trading was connected to terrorism, Malcolm said he couldn't give concrete examples. "It would surprise me greatly if the number were not large," Malcolm added.

And yet the author also says:

Part of the hearing rehashed complaints about file-trading by college students over P-to-P networks, covered in previous hearings and statements from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). No one at the hearing connected P-to-P trading with the financing of terrorism or organized crime.

After rereading it, it seems like both Joi's original headline and my first comment on it are valid, yet they are contradictory. Am I wrong?

This page is also copyrighted and if you are reading it, you probably downloaded it. What's wrong with that?

But read John Carter's quote again: "somebody's got a 33-month sentence in the federal penitentiary for downloading copyrighted materials."

Apparently the language has changed on Capitol Hill so that anyone trading in copyrighted materials must be a criminal. Indeed, the language seems to ignore all the wonderful and legal uses of copyright ( as in GPL ) which encourage the trading of copyrighted material. This is worrisome.

Joi -- I agree with you wholeheartedly on that. The severity of punishment has been totally out of whack for a long time whenever it's something to do with the internet or new computer tech...

Hopefully (I tell myself this), as the technology becomes ubiquitous, irrational fear of it will decrease, and excessive punishments will decrease as well...

Here are some remarks i made in congress last week about the potential of P2P to challenge state-sponsored censorship. Of course, the USG is already known to deploy P2P in this area. . .

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