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File share software developers want copyright reform

From Brad Wright

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the recording industry presses its case with U.S. legislators and consumers over copyright infringement, the developers of software that facilitates unauthorized music downloads are demanding Congress change copyright laws.

A number of those software developers have banded together in a trade association called P2P United, which is reflective of its "peer-to-peer" file-sharing technology. This technology enables computer savvy people to download music without paying for it in apparent violation of some copyright laws.

P2P United claims that more than 63 million people in the United States alone have participated in some kind of file sharing.

The recording industry has reacted in some cases by suing some people it suspects of pirating its music, demanding in extreme cases as much as $150,000 per song, under the authority of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

"Discriminatory lawsuits that run roughshod over the public's rights to due process have got to stop," said P2P United's Executive Director Adam Eisgrau, "and everyone with a stake in the future of electronic commerce needs to sit down under Congress' watchful eye and get serious about building the 21st century's online marketplace."

While copyrighted property is deserving of protection, Eisgrau said, the recording industry has been too heavy-handed in enforcing the laws against online pirates. "All proportion has left the debate" over file sharing, he said.

The Recording Industry Association of America says on its Web site that it loses about $4.2 billion to various forms of piracy, including file sharing.

But in the past, copyright holders have been slow to react to new technologies.

As Stephen Keating, executive director of the Denver-based Privacy Foundation wrote in a Denver Post editorial Thursday, "The movie studios feared VCRs, then found that a whole new billion-dollar market in home entertainment had been created," with the advent of movie rentals.

Executives from peer-to-peer technology firms Blubster, Grokster, Lime Wire and Morpheus were on hand at a news conference Monday to launch the trade association.

Kazaa, believed to be one of the largest file-sharing networks, chose not to join the group. Kazaa did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Congress is already considering whether to repeal one provision of DMCA that gives copyright holders the right to compel Internet service providers to reveal the identities of subscribers who are suspected of pirating music.

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