One of the things that has always bothered me about the Recording Industry Association of America and its file-sharing lawsuits is that, for many of those people, their biggest crime is being uninformed.
I can't tell you many of my own friends and extended family members - educated, law-abiding citizens - who had no idea that they were sharing music illegally. Yes, most of them wonder how it's OK to download music for free - but very few understood that their crime wasn't so much downloading music that wasn't theirs but rather allowing other people to tap into their copies of the downloaded music - and make yet another copy.
This is why I'm glad to see that a bill - called the Informed P2P User Act (PDF) - making its way through Congress is getting support on both sides of the aisle and is headed to the full House for a vote. A post on Ars Technica goes into detail about concessions made in the bill that strengthened it to get past committee.
In a nutshell, the bill requires "clear and conspicuous" warning about the files that are going to be available for others to download from your computer and obtain approval from you to share them. That should put an end to any "I didn't know" arguments about the risks that users are taking when they use P2P software.
The bill also prohibits P2P software from being sneaky with secretive installs or blocking uninstalls.
As welcome as legislation is, it shouldn't replace any efforts to educate the public about the dangers of file-sharing. If those in the entertainment industry - whether music or video - want to ever have an impact on piracy, they need to keep up the fight through education.
Also see: RIAA's $1.92 million victory: more about message, less about money