May 26, 2024

File Sharing Vs. The Web

Ernest Miller is on a roll over at LawMeme. His latest post asks why people treat HTTP (i.e., the web) and peer-to-peer systems so differently:

P2P and http uploading and downloading of copyrighted MP3s are, essentially, functionally equivalent from a copyright point of view. From a technical point of view, however, there are significant differences. If anything, http has some serious advantages over P2P filesharing in many cases. Although P2P would still be useful in a world where http filesharing were allowed, http could easily and more effectively handle the vast majority of filesharing.

I venture that there seems to be a different set of copynorms for the practice of filesharing via P2P and http. Certainly some defend filesharing via both P2P and http, but others strongly defend P2P with nary a word in favor of http filesharing.

This is just a sample. Read the whole thing!


  1. I drew a different lesson from Miller’s excellent essay. The point is that we all know that sharing files by posting them on the web is wrong. That is obvious, blatant copyright infringement. But doing it via P2P has the same effect! So that should be wrong, too.

    In other words, this is a reductio ad absurdum for the P2P community’s claims that file sharing of copyrighted materials is OK. We all recognize that it’s not OK when the “sharing” is done via HTTP publishing, so we should realize that the same thing applies with P2P protocols. That’s what I think Miller was trying to say.

  2. First off http is not really good for finding obscure stuff unless a search engine can find and index the different file formats. I dont think comparing a protocol and a major software trend is useful. File-sharing with the latest p2p software offers a user experience beyond the web.

    The Copynorm entry at Wikipedia would have to be one of the worst I have seen. Informal social norm, whats that? The entry is too file-sharing specific.

    Generally I do what I think is good and sharing is a good thing. Sharing knowledge is a good thing. Sharing information, especially when it something that other’s want to retrieve is a good thing.

    The only copynorn I know is copy whatever I want. Maybe people don’t care about piracy because they know that information can be shared for a very very low cost. Maybe, like me, people want to end the copyrighted intellectual property farce and dive into the cooking pot.

  3. When I read Miller’s paper, I though his use of the term HTTP obscured his argument. HTTP is just a protocol. Some P2P software systems use it, and browsers use it to talk to servers.

    HTTP has very little to do with the user model that is presented as part of a browser or P2P file sharing software. One user model is optimized to allow many end-users to easily read data and the other is optimized to allow many end-users to easily share data.

    I didn’t think it was exceptionally new for Miller to note that software user models are important to a person’s perception of whether an action is right or wrong. So why the fuss over the article?