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Just what is Congress illegally downloading?


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Dec. 28, 2011

Lawmakers apparently have little problem with going where they shouldn't be going

Are members of Congress online pirates, stealing copyrighted material and viewing porn while they are, ironically, working on federal legislation to stop Internet theft of intellectual property?

The answer is yes, according to a report that examines the downloading habits – legal and illegal – of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Online monitors at TorrentFreak researched the surfing habits of lawmakers via in the analysis.

"YouHaveDownloaded is a treasure trove full of incriminating data on alleged BitTorrent pirates in organizations all across the world," the report states.

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The U.S. House was targeted for review since lawmakers are drafting the much-discussed Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, which some fear could be a tool for mass censorship in the name of copyright protection.

"Since it's the birthplace of the pending SOPA bill, we wondered how many of the employees there have engaged in unauthorized copying. The answer is yet again unambiguous – they pirate a lot," the report says.

"In total we found more than 800 IP addresses assigned to the U.S. House of Representatives from where content has been shared on BitTorrent. After a closer inspection it quickly became clear the House isn't just using it for legitimate downloads either, quite the opposite."

Something that immediately caught our eye are the self-help books that are downloaded in the House. "Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High," for example, may indeed be of interest to the political elite in the United States. And "How to Answer Hard Interview Questions And Everything Else You Need to Know to Get the Job You Want" may be helpful for those who aspire to higher positions.

Congressional downloads include "How to Answer Hard Interview Questions And Everything Else You Need to Know to Get the Job You Want" (courtesy

Books tend to be popular in the House because we found quite a few more, including "Do Not Open – An Encyclopedia of the World's Best-Kept Secrets" and "How Things Work Encyclopedia." But of course the people at the heart of democracy are also downloading familiar content such as Windows 7, popular TV shows and movies.

And there was another category we ran into more than we would have wanted too. It appears that aside from self-help books, House employees are also into adult themed self-help videos.

A title of one purported pornographic download is Gangland Cream Pie.

Congressional downloads include pornographic material. (courtesy

Early responses to the report tend to be packed with sarcasm.

For instance, Cory Doctorow at noted, "I'm just shocked (and a little bit heartened, to be honest) to learn that there's someone in the House who knows how to use the Internet."

And Mike Masnick at TechDirt asked: "So when do we get to see the House of Representatives get listed as a 'rogue site?'"