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If you go by the numbers and continue with our classification of the Camps and of the pirating public as Us, then there are more of Us than Them. This is why the issue of music "sharing" has become so interesting—sharing over peer-to-peer networks went from a few thousand hackers sharing software and PC games over obscure Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms to over 60,000,000 people worldwide in a matter of two years. Thank you, Napster; thank you, MP3. A background geek activity became a social movement, a mass movement, a society-altering movement.

Scott Dinsdale, an executive vice president of the MPAA, summed up the entertainment industry's prevailing view of public media-sharing at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2002 when he said, "The ability to share programming was one thing when it was limited to two or three friends, but now it's a million friends." [10]

Ah, but is "one thing" a legal thing, an ethical thing, or a business thing? Was it okay for a few people to share a song but not a million? As we saw in Chapter 1, Are You a Digital Pirate?, copying and sharing are as old as humankind; it's just that our ways of doing these things have evolved with time and technology. The Internet has stretched our concept of the meaning of "fair use," which was designed for less ubiquitous and greatly more controllable media, beyond recognition. And since we're asking you that question, what are your thoughts on these three scenarios?

  1. If a little bit of copying and sharing is legal, but a lot isn't, doesn't that agree with the downloaders? Isn't it just the definition of "a lot" that's in question? And are we also making a clear distinction between an act that is illegal and an act that's just unethical?
  2. One of the foundations of case law is intent; is it the file-sharer's first and true intention to distribute a file to millions of friends, or is that simply a by-product of downloading a copy for their own personal use?
  3. What would happen if a national resolution were put on the ballot for the voting public to decide whether or not downloading media from the Internet for personal use was legal? [11]

Unfortunately, unless it is modified subsequent to this writing, the DMCA precludes such sharing and even gives media companies the right to hunt down copyright violators. As we'll see in Chapter 5, Inside the Sausage: The Making of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act , the DMCA and its enforcement has helped exacerbate a me-versus-them antagonism in this country. Europe and the Far East, on the other hand, have yet to take the matter as seriously as the U.S. The European Union has expressed distaste for the U.S.'s legislate-and-prosecute-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality.

The antagonism has been particularly strong with music file-sharing. Software we need to do our work. Movies we usually only watch once or, at best, a few times. But music is a highly personal experience. We can listen to the same song a dozen or a thousand times in the course of our lives. Music crosses every boundary known to people. It is one of the most available and expressive art forms. Lester Thurow, the world-renowned economist, even refers to it as the world's oldest profession—claiming roaming musicians were paid for their work in times more ancient than those in which sex for hire appeared. [12]

Ever since the days of underground FM rock and the advent of the compact cassette, music-lovers have been putting their favorite songs together into a unique personal concert. When that personal concert is shared with others, it becomes a form of communication—indeed, communion. Many feel this kind of communication has been taken away from us by those who regard music as a business—the record labels and increasingly monopolistic radio networks.

It's inconceivable that the music industry will ever be able to stop the illegal downloading of music files on the Internet. The music industry executives and their lobbyist, the RIAA, know this. In a ludicrous reversal of the Biblical story, Goliath is flinging pebbles at 60 million or more Davids, hoping to instill enough fear to curtail their downloading. But it won't work, especially with youth. Isn't it their sacred duty, practically a biological imperative, to thwart the restrictions placed on them by adults? To stir up the pot, make messes? Did Shawn Fanning, creator of Napster, set out to create an environment in which 3 billion songs are downloaded a month, or was he just trying to find a new way to share music with his dorm mates? And will a generation with the most permissive parents in history stop downloading because a bunch of media fat cats say they shouldn't?

In a sense, the massification of digital media downloading is delivering on the promise of the Founding Fathers' copyright legislation to return media to the public domain. Think about it: The Internet is causing widespread massification of everything informational, from telephone numbers to jokes to news and entertainment and, yes, even porn. Sometimes the course of events has its own impetus. As the entertainment industry strives to extend the length of copyright ownership and tighten its grip on fair use, the public retaliates by taking back the digital night.

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