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EFF Updates P2P Developers Legal Guide
January 28, 2004
Thomas Mennecke
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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has become one most visible supporters of the digital music/file-sharing movement. In addition, the EFF has received a wide degree of attention since the RIAA started its lawsuit campaign against P2P users. In turn, its efforts have earned it the respect of many in the file-sharing world.

The EFF is a non-profit organization made up of lawyers, technologist and volunteers. In addition to many other functions, the EFF offers legal advice (many times free) on a personal basis and developed an extensive guide for those sued by the music industry. It has also staunchly opposes the RIAA\'s campaign against suspected file-traders.

In its efforts to inform and communicate with the file-sharing world, the EFF has developed an extensive legal guide for P2P developers, titled \"What Peer-to-Peer Developers Need to Know about Copyright Law\", authored by EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann. Although designed mostly for developers, it touches on many of the important intellectual property laws that P2P users may want to become familiar with.

Some of the more interesting advice it gives to P2P developers is encouraging open source products and discouraging \"auto updates.\" The EFF also discourages developers from using a EULA \"End User Licensing Agreement.\"

These concepts center around control. P2P companies have risen and fallen based on their ability to control their networks. Napster or SongSpy, for example, can be quite easily controlled, considering their centralized nature. However, decentralized networks like FastTrack and Gnutella have avoided Internet banishment.

Most P2P developers want to demonstrate as little control over their networks as possible to mitigate lawsuit possibilities. The EFF brings up the point that a EULA can be used as evidence against a developer; as it establishes an agreement between the end user. Therefore, it could be argued that the developer has established control over a P2P application (many EULA\'s threaten to terminate your ability to connect to a particular network if the software is used to violate copyrights.)

Another point of interest, the EFF states that P2P developers should not offer customer support. From the EFF\'s white paper,

\"No customer support.

Any evidence that you have knowingly assisted an end-user in committing copyright infringement will be used against you.\"

The paper has been updated to reflect the recent ruling in the Aimster case. Considering oral arguments in the MGM vs. Grokster appeal in 9th Circuit Court is less than a week away, the paper is an informative abstract into the P2P legal debate.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Other
Technology News :: Organizations/Initiatives

You can read the EFF\'s white paper here.

You can discuss this article here

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