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.

Courtesy of Danny Clinch / Shore Fire Media
What do Bruce Springsteen and the Congressional Ethics Committee have in common? Both appear to have been victimized by improper or illegal computer downloads.

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.

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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