According to Techdirt, a California state senator has introduced a bill that threatens developers of file sharing applications with jail time. John Borland at CNET, writes, “if passed and signed into law, it could expose file-swapping software developers to fines of up to $2,500 per charge, or a year in jail, if they don’t take ‘reasonable care’ in preventing the use of their software to swap copyrighted music or movies–or child pornography.” “Reasonable care” is a pretty murky term and is certainly open to interpretation. I wonder Senator Murphy thought, well it’s just like the war on drugs – you have to go to the source! So instead of going after the people who are illegally sharing and downloading files, I’ll go after the people who develop the means for people to illegally share music and movies. That’ll stop ‘em! Or maybe he realizes how ridiculous his bill is but is looking for some political backing from the recording and motion picture industries. Either way the bill reflects a lack of understanding about the fact that file sharing programs are also used for legitimate file sharing and file transfer, and that there is not really a way for the developer to completely control how his or her software is used (beyond choosing not to distribute the software). Here’s more on the senator and the bill:

By the way, if you’re wondering where you’ve heard of State Senator Kevin Murray before, he’s the politician who also made it illegal to send any media file in California anonymously. Despite the questionable basis for such a law (and the fact that it probably violates other laws concerning privacy — especially with respect to children), it appears that Murray doesn’t really care about the facts of the situation, but just that folks in the entertainment industry are happy with all the laws he’s passed in their favor. Anyway, based on my reading of the actual proposal, it would also threaten to put anyone who has written FTP software and possibly even web browsers in jail. Maybe his next law will simply outlaw the internet, and force us all to watch broadcast content instead. That would really help, wouldn’t it?

Ahh… dare to dream! If you’d like to read the bill, it’s here. I have never understood people and organizations who employ the same strategy again and again, even when it fails every time. It’s like, “if it doesn’t work once, keep doing the same thing but do it harder!” Or, to quote The Simpsons “‘There’s three ways to do things: the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way.’” “‘Isn’t that the wrong way?’” “‘Yeah, but faster!’” The recording and motion picture industries don’t want to look at alternative economic models or look at how they can make file sharing work in their favor. They just want to keep trying to block people from doing it, using the courts and the legislature as their hired guns. And it just doesn’t work.