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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Saving P2P by stopping the fraud and deceptive practices

I have been receiving many e-mails from parents, and many challenges from kids recently about P2P.

Most P2P companies are fighting for survival right now. With the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear the appeal of the Grokster decision that found P2P technology couldn't be held liable for the misuse by its users in dowloading media and copyrighted content.

But consumers may be fighting for themselves now as well. The less reliable P2P companies are misrepresenting (perhaps intentionally) what people are buying when they purchase premium ad-free services. Parents, hoping to help keep their kids' downloading habits on the right side of the law, are paying for the ad-free product thinking it provides a license to download music. They (and many lawyers) are confused by claims that the site or service or product or technology are 100% legal (and in some cases referencing the 9th Circuit decision up on appeal as proof, and in at least one case claiming to be the only P2P product that was ruled legal by the court).

And ever time I stand before groups of kids/teens I am challenged with questions about these claims and the burden of having to explain to them that although the technology is legal, misuse of it is not.

I am shouting in the wind.

Last Wednesday in Washington, thanks to the foreward thinking of Commissioner Pam Harbour (FTC Commissioner and mom), a workshop was held inviting the various stakeholders ot the table. While the FTC's jurisdiction doesn't extend to piracy, there have been claims on both sides of deceptive and unfair practices that do fall within its jurisdiction.

There was lots of pointing fingers and launching of accusations. And, I think, some progress. I had a great meeting with P2P United and especially eDonkey. They understood the issues. eDonkey agreed immediately to change its disclosures to make it clear that buying their premium product wasn't buying a license to download or upload copyrighted content. They also agreed to make this disclosure at least as prominent as the sale message.

Morpheus and others agreed to work with me to come up with disclosures at least as prominent, on their front page, clarifying the issues and making sure that consumers aren't confused.

It's an important first step, and one I am thrilled is being taken voluntarily by at least some of the P2P companies.



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