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California

File-Sharing Firms Could Be Targeted by State Prosecutors, Letter Says

March 16, 2004|From Associated Press

Companies behind software used by millions to swap music, movies and other files online could be the target of warnings or even legal action by attorneys general of several states, a letter apparently drafted by California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer says.

The letter, which was disseminated by a trade group that represents file-sharing software firms such as Kazaa and Morpheus, warns that the states' top law enforcement officers have set their cross hairs on the purveyors of peer-to-peer programs.

"Over the coming months, we will begin focusing more attention on the risks P2P software programs pose to consumers in our states," the letter says.

Outlined in the letter are concerns that the software companies have not done enough to curtail the unauthorized distribution of movies, music, software, video games and pornography.

The letter also questions whether the firms have made it clear to users that they could be held liable for sharing copyrighted works or that they could be susceptible to identity theft by using the firms' software.

"A failure to prominently and adequately warn consumers, particularly when you advertise and sell paid versions of your software, could constitute, at the very least, a deceptive trade practice," the letter says.

Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar did not confirm that the draft of the letter originated in his office, but he acknowledged that Lockyer, who is president of the National Assn. of Attorneys General, had worked on the issue with his counterparts.

P2P United, which represents several file-sharing software distributors, responded to Lockyer's purported draft with an offer to brief him on the industry.

"Obviously, we are concerned that misinformation and partial information could rapidly escalate into state-based proceedings or activities," Executive Director Adam Eisgrau said.

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