File Sharing & Copyright (Whose Right Is It Anyway)?

This post was triggered by a thought-provoking post on Techdirt about the moral argument for file-sharing, as well as other recent events, blog-posts and articles which serve to high-light some interesting developments in the arguments for and against ‘free’ content, file-sharing and Copyright reform as follows:

 1. The aforementioned Techdirt article argues in favour of filesharing as a means of cultural evolution (among other things), but frowns on the idea of hoarding an infinite resource such as digital content, as currently enabled by existing Intellectual Property mechanisms

 2. Citizens versus Consumers – According to Bill Jones' post on the Copyright and Technology blog, the lines have become very blurred indeed when it comes to Copyright. 

 3. Google Books Program – BusinessWeek article describes the concessions made by Google to on its books program. It has limited the coverage of this program to the US, UK, Canada and Australia, but still intends to proceed with making Orphan Works available.

 4. Radiohead’s In-Rainbows Experiment – An NPR article discusses the outcome of this much lauded experiment, and the authors' paper about the experiment with key observations of how free does not mean devoid of Piracy, and that "popular music is popular everywhere it's popular", even on the Pirate networks!

 5.  Pirate Bay Tracker Is No More – but the Pirate Bay lives on with little or no noticeable difference to the end user, due to an evolution of technology whereby Torrent trackers are no longer necessary to find and share files

 The above should be enough to give an indication of the direction things are heading in the realm of digital file sharing and Copyright evolution. If you ask me, I think it means Citizens can Share, but Consumers Can't, or is it the other way round? I can feel a headache coming on, and I think I'll go lie down for a bit, but your comments are most welcome.

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    Barr Kaye wrote on 20th Nov 2009

    There seems to be an important tension between two equally valid agruments.

    Firstly the right to make a living on the basis of your personal or corporate contribution to culture (music, books, visual arts etc.)

    Secondly what rights an individual has to participate in this culture. (What are reasonable license terms? - should these make it illegal for you to listen to music with your friends?)

    It seems that the fee for entering our digital culture, and the degree of protection this culture is given, need re-negotiating.

    We have a very odd system wherby copyright offers total protection for several generations, as compared to patent, which offers optional protection for a limited period. It appears, however, that copyright is observed more in breach than in observance - how much of our culture do you feel is derivative (lets not say copied)?.

    Perhaps we should move to a patent system for cultural works...

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About the author
Jude Umeh is a member of the UK's Sector Consulting Group in Capgemini's global Telecom Media and Entertainment (TME) community. His areas of expertise include: music, media and digital rights management; and he contributes to thought leadership development and delivery of solutions and services to the stakeholders in these fields. Jude is the author of The World Beyond Digital Rights Management.

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