Friday, October 22, 2010

The real issues at hand....

In reading the blogs from a few of my class mates regarding this week's discussion topic, I found the polarity of opinions very interesting. One blogger felt that it is OK to download music illegally, and justified it by placing it under the umbrella of "file sharing". Another blogger, while fully sensitive to the implications of illegal downloading was somewhat confused by the two terms, "illegal downloading" vs. "file sharing".

In my mind, the two terms are different:  Illegal downloading is acquiring an object for free that otherwise should have been paid for. File sharing is simply sharing information online. I don't think there is any harm in sharing files if those files were acquired legally. I think the question that does fit under the same umbrella is whether the files you are sharing were intended, by the author, to be shared at no cost.

Something else I found interesting in a couple of the blogs I read was an attitude of "..this is what my generation does, and if you don't like it then you need to change your system". An artist makes h/er living by using their skills and expertise, just as we make our living(s) using our skills and expertise. Would you consider it fair if your boss decided he didn't want to pay you? The fact of the matter is it's illegal, and furthermore you would not be able to make a living. You would pursue the appropriate legal channels to ensure payment for your services.

A third, and much larger issue, that perhaps confused the discussion even further, is the question of what should be protected and to what extent. This is where the waters start to get a little murky on some levels. For example, if you use a quote from a book that is protected under copyright law, it is perfectly OK as long as you put it in quotation marks and give attribution to the author. Yet the debate rages on whether it's OK to sample beats from various artists' songs to create a new song that you call your own. In the former you are paying homage to the author by using h/er words in your own literary piece. However, in the latter it is considered copyright infringement or stealing. If attribution were given, would that make a difference? Or is it simply a matter of how the two institutions approach copyright? Or, is it something different all together? Perhaps this is where the greed of corporate America comes into play, which is the larger debate needing to be explored.

I wanted to identify these issues separately in an attempt to simplify the various areas of debate. The first two issues I mentioned are pretty much straight forward, at least in my mind. The third issue, I believe, is where the conversation needs to be focused. A couple of cases in point include Hollywood's global monopoly on entertainment. A second case is that of pharmaceutical companies who would rather gain financially than to collaborate with the larger scientific community to perhaps discover cures for diseases for the public good. As Kim mentioned in class, no research is currently being done to find a cure for Aids because there is more money to be made by not finding a cure. These are the types of issues I feel need to be addressed. These are the corporate giants that are hiding behind patents and copyright laws for their own financial gains, rather than caring about what's best or the people. The same dynamics are at work in the insurance industry. It is practice to find legal ways to deny coverage or to drop you altogether.

These are the areas we need to focus on. These are the areas that need change. How to go about making these types of changes is difficult because of all the powerful players involved. But it is certainly a stepping off point for discussion.


  1. Definitely an important issue, and by constantly framing the issue around record and movie companies, the larger public does seem to miss out on the more pressing portions of the debate.

    It seems a given that you would argue in favor of restructuring the system, so I think your challenge (certainly not an insurmountable one) will be to come up with ways to explore the topic in a unique and interesting way. This could be done either with the creation of a media piece, or through the right framing of your research questions.

  2. I should have said, "careful" framing of your research questions. There is no "right" or "wrong" approach.

  3. carol, i think you did a good job of detailing your points. i agree with you on your definition of file sharing and illegal downloading. it was interesting to hear (and see in the steal this film!) some gen x and y say that they feel it's ok to...well, basically steal media. could it be that because the internet makes information so easy to access that the line between file sharing and illegal downloading has become transparent.

  4. You bring up some great issues on the debate of copyright and file sharing/illegal downloading. Sadly, a great deal of the debate involves money and who gets it or who has to pay it etc. I agree that I think there are certain things that should be changed regarding copyright laws and patents, but I fear that because there are so many players involved, like you said, it might not ever be changed, or changed more in favor of big corporations with more money behind them instead of for the good of the people. But, I could be wrong, perhaps it will. We can hope so anyway.