File Sharing: A debate
With a focus on trading (pirating) MP3s
List of P2P pros and cons, with sources supporting and opposing
There are only so many ways to debate file sharing, yet it's always a popular topic at newsgroups, message boards, blogs, and web sites. A P2P flame war will often consist of the following arguments, which are grouped into general concepts.
The main bullets are sample comments based on arguments I've read, which are mostly in my words.
They could be pure speculation, and do not necessarily reflect my opinion.
- If italicized in quotes, the argument is a quote, and a reference follows.
- References for all sources are in red and link to the Works Cited at the bottom of this page.
Arguments for file sharing (pros)
Are CDs worth buying?
A CD only has a few good songs.
- "...the public thinks albums have too much filler." BBC-1
- CDs cost too much.
- I wouldn't have bought the CD anyway.
Music these days is terrible, so that's why sales are declining
- A 2006 poll found that 49% of music fans ages 18-to-34 say music is getting worse.Bauder
- College students barely have enough money to pay for laundry, let alone CDs and DVDs.
P2P in general
- Peer to peer networks have many useful applications; they shouldn't be shut down to stop music piracy.
- Can use them to distribute files that don't have copyright restrictions (public domain).
- I only download songs I already own as a backup copy.
Is copyright infringement wrong?
- MP3s are not a physical thing, so no actual value is lost by "stealing" a song.
Intellectual property should not follow the same rules as physical property.
- "...the misused notion of intellectual property as a form of tangible property." Lemley
- "Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property." Jefferson
- "...making intellectual property decisions by analogy to physical object property, or even to older intellectual property policies, is a mistake." Stallman
- If taping off the radio is okay, then why not trading MP3s?
- If sharing with one friend is ok, then why is sharing with everybody wrong?
The Internet is global, and the RIAA is forcing American laws on the world.
- The international community may abide by the Berne Convention, but the United States' DMCA goes beyond what the World Intellectual Property Organization required in the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty. EFF-2
- "The U.S. government has joined forces with the entertainment industry to stop the freewheeling global bazaar in pirated movies and music, pressuring foreign governments to crack down or risk incurring trade barriers." Ahrens-2
- Copyright law is becoming increasingly restrictive because of special interests.
Some key laws and proposed bills
U.S. - No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act) Wikipedia-5
- Description: provides for criminal prosecution of individuals who engage in noncommercial copyright infringement.
- Status: Law (1997)
U.S. - Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act Wikipedia-2
- Status: Law (1998)
U.S. - Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Wikipedia
- Status: Law (1998)
U.S. - H.R.4077, The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2004 LOC-1
- Status as of 2004-09-29: Received in the Senate
U.S. - S.2560, Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004 (a.k.a. INDUCE Act) PublicKnowledge-2
- Status: Dead?
U.S. S.167, Family Entertainment and Copyright Act LOC-3
- Status: Law (2005)
- U.S. - No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act) Wikipedia-5
Some key court decisions / case law
MGM v. Grokster LOC-5
- Ruling: June 27, 2005
- Summary: The case was about whether creators of P2P programs could be held liable for copyright infringement taking place by users of the software. The United States Supreme Court ruled that the software creators can be held responsible if the program's intent is clearly to infringe.
- MGM v. Grokster LOC-5
Rationalizing copyright infringement
- I only download hard-to-find songs.
- Most of the MP3s being shared are low quality.
- Popular artists make plenty of money already.
Artists barely get a fraction of every CD sold, so they don't lose when their music is shared.
- "[Royalties are] as intricate and controversial as everything else in the music industry." Obringer
Bands make their money by touring / live concerts / merchandizing.
- "The top 10 percent of artists make money selling records. The rest go on tour..." Kafka
- The music industry is dragging its heels in creating a legitimate online music business model.
- If I bought a vinyl record (8-track, cassette tape, etc.) then shouldn't I get an upgrade to the latest media for free?
Artists for file sharing
- Many artists support file sharing.
Janis Ian Ian
- "The premise of all this ballyhoo is that the industry (and its artists) are being harmed by free downloading. Nonsense."
Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore Moore,Thurston
- "Trying to control music sharing - by shutting down P2P sites or MP3 blogs or BitTorrent or whatever other technology comes along - is like trying to control an affair of the heart. Nothing will stop it."
Blur's Dave Rowntree Mackintosh
- "I'm blisteringly in favour [of file-sharing software]"
- "You can't stop people exchanging any digitisable media over the internet"
Wilco's Jeff Tweedy Jardin
- "If people are downloading our music, they're listening to it. The internet is like radio for us."
- "I don't believe every download is a lost sale."
- "I don't want potential fans to be blocked because the choice to check out our music becomes a financial decision for them."
- Janis Ian Ian
- Many artists oppose file sharing lawsuits and DRM copy protection on CDs, digital music
Chumbawamba's Neil Ferguson Ferguson
- "So, why would the Record Company want to stop you playing your CD on your PC? That would seem inappropriate in this 'age of the iPod'."
- "Putting copy protection on CD's has little or no effect on the 'Pirate'"
Steven Page of The Barenaked Ladies Page
- "First, we believe that suing our fans is destructive and hypocritical.
- "Second, we believe that the use of digital locks, frequently referred to as technological protection measures, are risky and counterproductive.
- Chumbawamba's Neil Ferguson Ferguson
Benefits of trading
- I preview songs before buying the CD.
- Some artists get good word of mouth when their music is traded.
- Since I've started downloading MP3s, I've bought more CDs / more diverse music.
- Whenever Hilary Rosen (or Metallica, etc.) tells me not to steal music, I do it just to spite them.
Boycott the music industry.
- "Take a stand against the Recording Industry Association of America" Boycott
- All the MP3s I download are paid for, just not by me.
Effects on industry / musicians
- The music industry said the same thing about cassette tapes, and the industry didn't crumble.
File sharing doesn't affect CD sales
- Any decline in sales is probably because of the bad economy, not file sharing. Moore,Justin
- One study says file sharing has little impact on CD sales. Reuters
- "BMI posts record year, despite music industry doom and gloom" Fisher
- Popular artists are negatively affected, but lesser known artists benefit from file sharing. Slashdot-1
The industry is made up of Luddites (afraid of technology)
- "File sharing networks ... threaten existing publishers." O'Reilly
They need a new business model
- "selling recorded performances can no longer be the cash cow it was during the 20th century" Paul
The biggest threat to creativity isn't file sharing, but the ever-tightening grip the industry is putting on intellectual "property"
- "Creativity depends upon the owners of creativity having less than perfect control." Lessig
- The music industry's most prominent weapon against illegal file sharing has been suing presumed uploaders.
In an attempt at reducing file sharing, the music industry has been including DRM (Digital Rights Management) on some CDs.
- "On Monday, October 31, alert users discovered that Sony BMG is using copy-protected CDs to surreptitiously install its digital rights management technology onto PCs." Wood
Arguments against file sharing (cons)
Are CDs worth buying?
Music is worth the money, and many CDs are reasonably priced.
- CD prices have been going down. CNET
- Just because college students (or anyone else) have limited finances, doesn't mean it justifies stealing.
P2P in general
- If the primary purpose of a P2P network is illegal trading, then shut it down.
- The reliability of files on a P2P network is questionable.
Lots of music is incorrectly labeled, consists of a looped segment, or is otherwise distorted.
- "Is there a conspiracy to flood the KaZaA file-sharing network with bad files?" Leyden
- There's a chance of pirated software being infected with a virus.
Is copyright infringement wrong?
- Trading MP3s is like stealing a CD from a store.
Children are growing up thinking music should be free.
- "It's not my fault that your generation had to pay for entertainment and that mine doesn't" Trudeau
- You may not care that you're stealing, but admit what you're doing is wrong.
MP3s may not be tangible, but they can be stolen.
- Intellectual property law such as copyrights and patents have existed for hundreds of years FindLaw
- "There looms the onrush of a collision between copyright rooted in the Constitution...and the rowdy, assertive babble of those who are determined to shrink and possibly exile the concept of copyright in order to grab creative material without paying for it," Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a speech... Borland
- MP3s are almost CD quality and trading them cannot be compared to recording off the radio.
- With file sharing, you can "access them at will. Also, the quality of downloads is much better." RIAA-3
- The RIAA isn't forcing American laws on the world.
In fact, in some ways the world has forced its copyright policy on the United States.
- "Despite acceptance of the Berne provisions by many countries, the United States did not sign the Berne Convention until 1988 (effective March 1, 1989)." Garfinkle
Rationalizing copyright infringement (rebuttal)
The industry is not dragging its heels. Some legitimate online music stores include
- There are many places to buy music online legally. About
- Digital music on CDs is better quality than older media like cassette tapes, so you're not entitled to a free upgrade.
Artists against file sharing
- Many musicians oppose illegal file sharing.
Lars Ulrich of Metallica Ulrich
- "We have many issues with Napster. First and foremost: Napster hijacked our music without asking."
Ed Robertson of The Barenaked Ladies CRIA
- "As long as they see themselves as thieves in general then I don't mind if they steal everything that they like. But it irks me that it's only okay to steal music."
- "Artists and songwriters of every style and genre are speaking out against illegal copying, including Madonna, Elton John, Eminem, Sheryl Crow, Jay Z, Lenny Kravitz and more." musicunited
- "Many artists and artist representatives have spoken out recently  on Napster" RIAA-5
- Lars Ulrich of Metallica Ulrich
Effects on industry
- The recording industry is having declining sales.
- Pirating music / movies has effects on all levels of the industry.
- The threat is greater than previous piracy technology, because distribution is practically free.
- The recording industry cannot compete against free.
- Creativity will suffer, because no one would be willing to take the risk of pursuing a music career.
- If the industry did not enforce copyrights, the perception would be that stealing is ok.
Works Cited / Other Articles
- A Guide to Purchasing Digital Music Online - mp3.about.com
- Sticker Price Scrapped for Universal CDs - by Frank Ahrens
- U.S. Joins Industry in Piracy War - by Frank Ahrens, Washington Post Staff Writer
- Hollywood Says Piracy Has Ripple Effect - by Frank Ahrens, Washington Post Staff Writer
- Betamax Case - by Tino Balio
- Music fans tell industry: Cut prices, make better music - by David Bauder, Associated Press
- Bands 'urged to cut album tracks' - BBC
- Downloading 'myths' challenged - BBC
- Burned by CD Burners - by Stan Bernstein
- Battle lines harden over Net copyright - by John Borland - Bruce Lehman thinks the digital copyright laws he helped write are in trouble, and it's largely the Net's fault.
- Boycott-RIAA.com - A group that suggests not buying from RIAA artists
- Study: CD prices sing the blues - By CNET News.com Staff - Average price of CDs fell in Q1 of 2004
- Copyright: an overview - law.cornel.edu
- Music Sharing License - creativecommons.org
- More than half a million illegal download attempts on new Tragically Hip single - Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA)
- Battling the Copyright Big Boys - By Katie Dean
- Music's brighter future - economist.com
- File-Sharing: It's Music to our Ears - eff.org
- Unintended Consequences: Five Years under the DMCA - eff.org
- Copy Protection - chumba.com
- U.S. Constitution: Copyrights and Patents - FindLaw.com
- BMI posts record year, despite music industry doom and gloom - by Ken "Caesar" Fisher
- MPEG Audio Layer-3 - Technical information about MP3 compression (from Fraunhofer IIS).
- Freenet - (peer-to-peer) Publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship.
- RIAA Takes Shotgun to Traders - by Bruce Gain
- Art Conservation and the Legal Obligation to Preserve Artistic Intent - by Ann M. Garfinkle, Janet Fries, Daniel Lopez, & Laura Possessky - Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
- Ads fighting movie piracy - by Michael Goldstein, Special to THE NEWS
- Musicians 'upbeat' about the net - by Alfred Hermida, BBC
- The Internet Debacle - An Alternative View - by Janis Ian
- 'Music Is Not a Loaf of Bread' - interview with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy - by Xeni Jardin
- Thomas Jefferson To Isaac McPherson Monticello, August 13, 1813
- Concert Tours Are Where the Real Money Is - by Peter Kafka, Forbes.com, Special to ABCNEWS.com
- The Future of P2P File-Sharing Networks - by Paul Korzeniowski
- Property, Intellectual Property, and Free Riding - by Mark A. Lemley
- Free Culture - Chapter Ten: "Property" - by Lawrence Lessig - ISBN 1594200068
- KaZaA poisoned with salted files? - by John Leyden
- States settle CD price-fixing case - by David Lieberman, USA TODAY
- H.R.4077 Summary - Library of Congress THOMAS database
S.3021 Table of Contents
- S.167 Summary - Library of Congress THOMAS database
- Circular 38a (PDF) - International Copyright Relations of the United States - United States Copyright Office (copyright.gov)
- Supreme Court Rules in MGM v. Grokster - United States Copyright Office (copyright.gov)
- Courtney Love does the math - Says the RIAA are the real pirates - by Courtney Love
- Reanimator - Interview with Dave Rowntree, drummer from Blur - by Hamish Mackintosh
- RIAA VS The Economy - Overall economy trends compared to RIAA sales - by Justin Moore
- The Best 90 Minutes of My Life - power of the mixed tape - by Thurston Moore
- musicunited.org - What artists and musicians opposed to file sharing have to say
- How Music Royalties Work - Mechanical Royalties - by Lee Ann Obringer
- Piracy is Progressive Taxation... - by Tim O'Reilly
- A Barenaked guide to music copyright reform - by Steven Page
- Why Everyone Hates The Music Industry - by Fredric Paul
HR 4077, The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2004
- Overview - S.2560 Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004 - publicknowledge.org
- RIAA Anti-Piracy - The Record Industry's stance on music piracy - physical media and online.
- RIAA chart (PDF) - 2003 U.S. Manufacturers' Unit Shipments and Value Chart
- RIAA FAQ - Napster and Digital Music - Q&A that covers many topics of the file sharing debate.
- Copyright Laws - (RIAA) Everything from the Federal Anti-Bootleg Statute to the Fair Use Doctrine.
- Quotes from the Artists
- Maybe the Music's Just Lousy? [wired.com] - Reuters
- How "Sharing" Music Hurts Real Musicians - by Daniel Rubin
- Beyond piracy: the new face of Internet file-sharing (BitTorrent) - by Seth Schiesel
- Lasting impression--downloading is illegal - by Gary Shapiro
- The Economics of P2P File-Sharing - With reference to a paper by David Blackburn, a Harvard PhD student
- Reevaluating Copyright: The Public Must Prevail - by Richard Stallman
- Chronology: Technology and the Music Industry - by Callie Taintor
- Doonesbury Topic: file sharing - by G. B. Trudeau
- Statement of Lars Ulrich - Before the Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate July 11, 2000
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act - Wikipedia.org
- Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act - Wikipedia.org
- United States copyright law - Wikipedia.org
- Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works - Wikipedia.org
- NET Act - Wikipedia.org
- DRM this, Sony! - by Molly Wood, section editor, CNET.com