Features

Damage control

National

Issue: "Beyond the nightly news," Oct. 11, 2003

CALL IT HONOR among thieves. Several operators of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, made notorious by millions of online music pirates, announced an ethics code-of sorts.

P2P United, a trade group that includes names like Morpheus, Grokster, and Bearshare, announced that its members would "prominently" warn users against using their software for illegal activities. It also vowed to help authorities catch child pornographers who use its members' services. But the group gave no hint that it would try to filter the files passed from computer to computer.

The Code of Conduct is damage control after record labels sued 261 music fans for distributing unauthorized MP3s. It comes with demands that Congress change part of the copyright law that opens downloaders to lawsuits and a statement referring to the recording industry as "Jurassic Park" for trying to stomp out individual file sharing.

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Kazaa, the biggest peer-to-peer network, isn't part of P2P United. Its owner, Sharman Networks, took the offensive in a different way. It sued major entertainment companies for copyright infringement. Why? They used unauthorized versions of the company's software to hunt down alleged pirates. The Recording Industry Association of America called Sharman's "newfound admiration for the importance of copyright law" ironic.

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