Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Criminalize acts, not means

I number of years ago I saw a bumper sticker that read "Register Mongols, not crossbows". The point being, if crossbows are illegal, only the Mongols will have crossbows.

Fast forward.

Today I read that the U.S. Justice Department seems to be modeling a war on file sharing after the war on drugs, and has released a set of recommendations re. copyright bills that would criminalize passive file sharing on peer-to-peer networks.

What these lobbyist-trough-lickers don't or won't get is that P-to-P file sharing is a technology. It may be used either for both legal and illegal acts. While VCRs and videocassettes were sometimes used for illegal piracy, they remain legal because recording for private home purposes is legal.  While guns are sometimes (even frequently) used for illegal acts, they remain legal because they are also used for legal acts. The vast majority of people break the law in cars every day, yet they too remain legal.

 P-to-P file sharing is used for any number of legal purposes as well, including legal distribution of copyrighted software or media by the owners or licensees of the copyright involved.

But as Lessig says in another context, Ashcroft doesn't get it.

[Comments from my previous blog]

1. a reader left...
Wednesday, 13 October 2004 12:37 pm
A lot of different discussions on copyright/filesharing/fair use are raging right now. To be honest: most of the traffic on P2P network is copyrighted material. We'll skip the copyright issue, that's another discussion altogether.

By banning the easiest way to share files there will be a massive move to other ways of 'sharing'. We've seen it happening with Napster. A lot of people want to 'share' files, and are willing to put in some effort to do so. Closing one road to their destination will only encourage them to find other ways.

The war on drugs has not been won, has it? The war on filesharing will probably end the same way.


2. glen martin left...
Wednesday, 13 October 2004 1:15 pm
Yes, a lot of copyrighted material is illegally shared over P-to-P networks. If it gets harder, the folks doing this sharing will go further underground. Read: "Speakeasy"s during Prohibition. A criminal class is created. The folks who suffer are the innocent bystanders and the legitimate users, not the illegitimate users.

Thanks for your comment.

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