Is there a historical precedent for the current digital filesharing situation?

I think that a large part of the confusion, misinformation, and constant debate about mp3’s and digital filesharing is that there simply is no historical precedent for what’s going on right now - that is, there has never been a time in history where the ability to make a seamless copy of something else has sprung up so immediately and has been able to be distributed with such efficiency.

A major problem with any debate or historical comparison is the equation of filesharing with theft, since it’s simply a fundamentally different crime. And since the technology has never been there before in any industry, there’s no precedent.

No, and I actually heard a very good Libertarian (specifically Austrian school of economics) argument against treating digital information like regular property. To sum it up, it said that the concepts of economics and property are based on scarcity, i.e. that there is a limited amount of product to be distributed among all the people in the world. Digital information is in no way scarce, and so to treat it as if it were makes no sense and cannot ultimately hold up. (It also made the argument that even traditional copyright was and is unnecessary government interference, which is a little more out there, but I still think it makes sense.)

Here is the link.

Vox Imperatoris

There’s nothing qualitatively different about an unlicensed mp3 as opposed to an unlicensed cassette tape, record album, or sheet music. It’s unauthorized copying of someone else’s intellectual property. The ease of the technology makes it harder to police, but that’s been true of every technological advance. The legalities of file sharing fit readily within hundreds of years of precedent.

Artistry and creativity are scarce, however, and those are what intellectual property law is meant to protect.

Obviously the legality fits plenty of precedent. It’s impossible to enforce now though, which calls for a reassessment of the law.

It’s -difficult- to enforce with current technology. Adding methods in the IP protocol to track data back to users and making the OS more sandboxed than it is today would both begin to limit the sharing. Making these products available on the internet for legal purchase download will also probably limit the amount of illegal sharing.

But no I can’t think of any particular precedent. Or at least not anything except for the situation of things previous to copyright law first becoming established (maybe.)

That won’t happen, so. People like their privacy, they won’t like the idea of data being tracked back to them trivially. I suppose the Chinese/Iranians etc might like that though?

ETA: Yes of course dismantling the outmoded methods of selling IP would help, though of course it doesn’t actually affect the ease of pirating. We probably need a new word than pirating too, what with the resurgence of actual piracy!

Making the OS more sandboxed? Huh? It doesn’t matter what you do to the OS…

It can be argued that there is nothing qualitatively different about me sitting alone in the middle of a stadium with a boom box and playing a CD that I purchased and me sitting in said stadium with 20,000 other deaf people or 10,000 non hearing impaired people.

What aspect of artistry and creativity is IP law protecting? Does it make people more artistic or creative?

It allows them to make a living from their artistry or creativity.

One could argue that they keep the existing creative artists from dying of hunger. Or keep them in the artistry and creation game rather than having to hold a day job which’d prevent them from practicing their craft full time.

Y’know, if one was interested in playing Devil’s Advocate :wink:

It’s frustrating how it is just assumed copyright is the best way to do that though. Especially considering the vast changes that have occurred technologically.

Copyright was appropriate 200 years ago, is it still? I doubt it.

So your argument is that they wouldn’t make money if there were no IP laws? How does one prove such a thing?

Does it really? Would you pay an artist for his work if you enjoyed it, or would you download it off the internet (a perfectly viable and free option)?

What a lot of people don’t understand is that free products and sponsoring organizations or people who don’t charge has a perfectly valid place in even the freest economy. It is simply a different way to market your product and one that fosters a much closer relationship between business and consumer. Consider the example of Stardock Systems, a PC developer. Although they do charge, they use no copy protection and admit that people will pirate their work; however, they only accept suggestions about the direction of the game from the people who actually buy their product (for example, they don’t care about what will appeal to the Chinese or Russian markets), and so the customers have a much greater influence over what will be produced. They also don’t burden the customer by treating him like a criminal by default. And Stardock doesn’t do this in support of a “noble cause”; they blatantly say that they are in it for the money (of course they enjoy their work, too).

Vox Imperatoris

We could support and help to flourish this scarce commodity with a fraction of the dough we used to bail out the financial sector. They would have health care, 3 squares and as much time as needed to focus on what they do best, create!

You’re kidding me.

I don’t think it was ever truly necessary. It seems to me that the traditional system of a wealthy patron sponsoring an artist to create work he enjoys would have developed into the idea of more than one patron getting together to support the artist quite well enough without government interference.

The tricky part, though, is that the system is now entrenched. You can’t just go running around ripping the supports on which the economy is built without expecting it to collapse before it arranges itself again.

Vox Imperatoris

No. People enjoy art, right? People pay for things they enjoy and realize that if they do not pay, then no more art will be produced. If The Beatles came out with a record and then some guy in Kansas started selling it cheaper, eventually people would come to the conclusion that while they could buy from the guy in Kansas, if then did so, then there would be no more future Beatles records to buy.

Vox Imperatoris

ETA: But now we don’t just have to worry about cheap, but free. And trying to suppress the technology for distributing an unlimited resource for free is not going to work. Ever.

You’re a musician. You spend years perfecting your craft. You work at a low paying job so you’ll have the time to practice your instrument and work on your songs. After several years you hone your skills and come up with an album of great beauty and originality. You make $0.00 off it because everyone gets a free copy. You say “fuck this” and go to law school.

I realize this is the way of the future. I just wonder what the future of music is going to be. Maybe we won’t have anyone making money off their music anymore, just amateurs playing at open mikes.

ETA: I think you vastly overestimate the long range thinking and altruism of pop music fans

I feel the textile industry is a pretty close comparison. When you get right down to it a shirt is a shirt is a shirt. Sure, some are prettier or nicer than others, but the basic need for clothing created a constant demand that supported a large and prosperous labor force. That labor was very organized and motivated to protect their trades and had much legal backing up until the industrial revolution. Suddenly there were machines that could make a dozen shirts of the same or better quality as you could in the same amount of time. A man by the name of Barthelemy Thimonnier invented an early sewing machine and received a contract to produce uniforms for the French army. Now, uniforms are identical… that’s the point. It doesn’t matter if a uniform is lovingly stitched by hand or churned out by the millions by robot, by design it is the same product. Mr. Thimonnier’s workshop was burned to the ground by tradesmen fearful that his invention would destroy their jobs and he died a poor man. Technology marched on, however, and today the only people who wear hand sewn garments are basically historical reenactors.

It is completely unreasonable to believe that 100 years from now information able to be reproduced digitally will still be protected from distribution as proprietary. It would be like attempting to sue somebody for purchasing pantyhose from wal-mart or sending somebody for jail for wearing a red hat and not being of noble birth. Musicians will have to go back to their original trade of playing live music in front of an actual audience in order to make money along with merchandising (although, with auto-fab… hmmm…). People who make money from distributing recordings of music have no future that I can see.

Possibly, if it sucks. However, people also might want to hear more albums by you and reward you for your work. Therefore, they would donate a little of their purchasing power to you so that you can afford to spend more time making new music that they enjoy. (Not out of the kindness of their hearts, but out of a desire to invest in their future pleasure.) If it turns out that, for example, stoned hippies seem to never actually give The Beatles money, then maybe they would listen to the audience that does, and make more music in their earlier style.

And maybe the dynamic of music would change. Perhaps music would become less transitory and dominated by the tastes of people with more long-range thinking. Maybe that would be good, maybe that would be bad. But trying to stick with the current system is like trying to contain a nuclear explosion by pressing *really *hard on a cardboard box.

Vox Imperatoris

ETA: It would be more like the stock market, except with music and not money as the desired thing to gain more of. There would be no immediate benefits from investing in an artist, but you could expect a payoff in the future (or maybe he would take it and go to Vegas, just like stocks crash in real life).