June 23, 2021

Archives for September 2003

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!

Senate Commerce Testimony: Post-Mortem

Today I testified at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing. The issue under discussion was whether (or how) the government should require the inclusion of DRM (anti-copying) technology in digital TV equipment. Here is my written testimony.

If you haven’t been to such a hearing, you might be surprised at some of what happens. For one thing, unlike the hearings you see on TV, some of the Senators are absent, and some come and go during the hearing. (A Senator is on multiple committees, and various hearings are going on simultaneously, along with other business.)

You would probably be disappointed as well at the quality of the debate. It’s not that debate doesn’t occur; and it’s not that the issues at hand aren’t important. But much time is wasted on posturing that is irrelevant to the nominal topic of the hearing and seems designed only to show that one side is purer of heart than the other. An example was the repeated references to porn on P2P networks. This had no connection to the hearing’s topic, and nobody even bothered to connect it to the topic. And none of the witnesses had any connection with P2P technology.

At the witness table, I was seated next to the one and only Mr. Jack Valenti, whom Senator Brownback laughingly introduced as “the eternal head of the MPAA.” Mr. Valenti was accompanied by a seeming army of helpers who passed him notes at a furious pace. He struck his usual apocalyptic tone – his testimony was titled “The Perils of Movie Piracy – and its dark effects on consumers, the million people who work in the movie industry, and the nation’s economy: Some facts, worries, and a look at the uncharted future”. The first paragraph is a real doozy:

No nation can lay claim to greatness or longevity unless it constructs a rostrum from which springs a “moral imperative” which guides the daily conduct of its citizens. Within the core of that code of conduct is a simple declaration that to take something that does not belong to you not only is wrong, but it is a clear violation of the moral imperative, which is fastened deep in all religions.

And this at a hearing about TV tuner regulation!

Mr. Valenti, characteristically, hit the P2P porn meme the hardest, even, in a surreal moment, inviting the Senators’ staffers to go download some porn from Kazaa and see for themselves how vile it is. As a parent, I had to chuckle on hearing the American movie industry complain about the distribution of inappropriate sexual content to kids. But then again the whole room seemed at times to be an irony-free zone.

Volokh and Solum Debate IP

Eugene Volokh and Lawrence Solum are having an interesting debate on the theory behind intellectual property. So far there have been four postings:

Volokh’s initial posting, explaining via a clever example why it might make sense to treat information as property

Solum’s response, challenging Volokh’s example

Volokh’s response to Solum

Solum’s response, digging deeper into the issue

Presumably we will see more on Volokh’s blog and Solum’s blog.