03 August 2005

Filesharing cases

The BPI (British Phonographic Institute) is suing five users of filesharing software for unauthorised distribution of copyrighted music. (The Register)

I support them in this action. A case can be made for abolishing or severely curtailing traditional copyright protections, and I am sympathetic to some of the arguments, but I do not see the issue as nearly clear-cut enough to justify ignoring or defying the law as it stands.

The copyright industries have made a lot of enemies by seeking (with considerable success) to vastly expand the scope and power of copyright law (and, in the case of software patent law). I am proud to count myself among those enemies. I strongly oppose:

  1. Legal restriction on the production, distribution or use of tools or techniques that can be used to infringe copyrights.
  2. Special police powers for investigating copyright infringements, over and above those that apply to other kinds of civil-law actions.
  3. Expansion of the scope of intellectual property, for example extension of terms or application of patent law to computer software.
  4. Ignoring or brushing aside the moral, legal and practical differences between "Intellectual Property" and actual property.

The suits under discussion involve of none of those - they are an entirely legitimate application of traditional copyright principles. It is by no means certain that traditional copyright law will be sufficient to preserve the plaintiffs' business model in the face of technological and economic change, but that is their problem, and they are fully entitled to try.

Related posts:

IP Confusion
Software Patents
Pharmaceutical future

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