July 23, 2003
Re: Reader comments that file sharing appears
to be stealing. Stealers should be punished. Throw them in
jail! We need to educate people.
IS FILE SHARING STEALING?
File sharing is no different from how fans
have enjoyed music in the past. Music is a social phenomenon
that we share with our friends and loved ones. We have always
used whatever media and technologies were available to discover
new artists, try out new tunes, and find rare recordings.
It's free promotion for the recording labels. It's how you
It used to be vinyl albums and tapes. Today
it's CDs and MP3's. You get a song from a friend's CD, off
the air, or the P2P network, listen to it, make duplicates,
create mixes. ... And if you really like it, you buy your
own CD, go the concerts, and pass it along to others.
The concept of stealing requires a monetary
loss. If I steal a CD from a store, the store has to buy a
replacement CD. Clear loss. But if I share a file, what is
the financial harm? There is no physical product that’s
been taken or diminished. There indeed are real music pirates.
They have CD manufacturing plants, flood the streets with
fake CDs, and are affiliated with organized crime. They're
not individual file sharing consumers.
Perhaps the financial impact is indirect.
On a consumer level research shows that people who share files
are MORE likely to buy music that people who don't share.
So the result of file sharing is more sales, not less.
On an industry level, while RIAA cries
about losing billions of dollars due to file sharing, studies
have little if any true effect. The reality is there are plenty
of reasons for lower sales that have nothing to do with the
P2P networks. We’re in a recession, the music industry
has severely cut back releases 25%, and abandoned the older
consumer market. Given all that, sales only dropped 4.1%.
The surprise is that music sales aren’t depressed even
more. If file sharing is a cause, it’s had a positive
impact, not a negative one.
WHO’S EDUCATIN’ WHO?
The relevant law (Article I, Section 8
of the United States Constitution) exists not just to protect
copyright owners, but also to ‘to promote the progress
of science and useful arts’, to get the work into the
public sphere and then into the public domain. The law is
not intended and does not provide for exclusive control.
Last I checked, this is not a totalitarian
society … though RIAA and MPAA would like to make it
so with Draconian efforts that give the industries absolute
control over how their product is used, not to mention subverting
due process, rescinding civil liberties, and making file sharing
The courts have upheld “fair use”,
whether it’s sampling to create new works, recording
a TV to play later, making a friend a tape, or using technology
that has both infringing and non-infringing uses.
It is ironic that education is mentioned.
That is the last refuge of authoritarianism. I don’t
have absolute control. You’re using my product in a
way that I don’t want. So the problem must be with you.
Now I must educate you. You will learn what I want you to
learn. Check out the latest propaganda at http://www.respectcopyrights.org/
The truth is consumers DO know the value
of musicians. People still buy CDs and t-shirts, they go to
concerts, they patronize bars with bands. And they share music
they love with friends. There’s a word for such customers
- FANS. You don’t throw them in jail.
The public speaks with its actions.
60 million plus American share files. They demand selection,
flexibility, convenience … and respect. When they get
it, they happily spend their money - witness Apple’s
iTunes. The educating here needs to be done on the side of
the industry to meet the needs of their customers.
Copyright 2003, Marc Freedman