Oops! File-sharing foul-up leaks ethics dirt on lawmakers

Like Bruce Springsteen and other rock idols, the Congressional Ethics Panel was the victim of a computer download - inadvertent in this case, but highly embarrassing.

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    What do Bruce Springsteen and the Congressional Ethics Committee have in common? Both appear to have been victimized by improper or illegal computer downloads.
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What do Bruce Springsteen and the Congressional Ethics Committee have in common?

Most of the time, very little. One is a seminal rock artist who thrills millions worldwide. The other is not.

But on Friday, a secret summary of recent ethics-panel activity leaked to the media, apparently through a publicly accessible computer network. The document revealed that the committee has been scrutinizing the actions of more than 30 lawmakers for possible rule violations.

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And that means that members of the Ethics Committee – just like Springsteen, and pretty much every other popular musician – have been victimized by improper or illegal computer downloads, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

This shows why Congress needs to enact new controls on peer-to-peer software to block the wrongful exchange of digitized music, or other intellectual property, said Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman.

“It’s now happening [in] Congress’s backyard, and that should be a powerful catalyst to enact real reforms to protect consumers,” said Mr. Bainwol in response to the leak of the ethics-panel report.

OK, this may be a stretch. But association executives use what comes their way to try to push their agenda.

The secret congressional document was saved on the hard drive of the home computer of a low-level ethics-panel staff member. That staff member also had peer-to-peer software on the computer. He did not realize the report could be downloaded in this manner, but he was fired anyway.

Peer-to-peer software allows computer network users to exchange files between themselves, without having to download them from a central server. It is much more commonly used by those who want to illegally share music files – an activity that has cut deeply into music-industry revenues.

Associated Press material was used in this report.

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