The Patent and Trademark Office has just released a report on filesharing programs and inadvertent information sharing. While the report itself takes on a subject that needs to be addressed (whether it does that well is the subject of another post), the report's foreward and the accompanying press release betray a panicky confusion of several different ideas.
The Director of the PTO, Jon Dudas, brings up copyright infringement and national security in the same breath:
A decade ago, the idea that copyright infringement could become a threat to national security would have seemed implausible. Now, it is a sad reality.
No, it's not. Copyright infringement does nothing to harm national security. Bad software does. Whether it's a poorly-written filesharing program or a poorly-written piece of DRM, bad software is what threatens security, not copyright infringement.
The report makes a note of several features in common filesharing software applications that make it easy for users to inadvertently share files they don't intend to. That creates a security problem for the user. If it's my personal computer, my personal information could be at risk for identity theft. If there's company or government information on the same computer, then that information is similarly at risk.
Fine. But the problem isn't just limited to p2p software. Any software that can transmit user information without the user's actual knowledge creates the same problem. So why the particular focus on p2p, unless this is an attempt to paint all filesharing with a bad-actor brush?
The report, as the foreword makes clear, was adapted from research compiled for a law review article. Perhaps we should encourage other students and academics to submit their articles for publication with the PTO?