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Thursday, June 7, 2012

File-Sharing Doesn’t Equal to Stealing

Op-ed law professor Stuart Green was talking in the press about unauthorized file-sharing and why it couldn’t be considered an act of theft as the international corporations believed.

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Since infamous Napster emerged in 1999, file-sharing started growing in popularity directly proportional with the evolution of technology, in our case – P2P. After this, the creative industry had to invest outstanding amounts of money in order to persuade people into thinking that unauthorized downloading is theft. In other words, they equal content theft to stealing. But not everyone can agree with this opinion. For example, Rutgers’ law professor and expert on theft laws shares another point of view. He says that if a file-sharer illegally downloads someone’s track from the web, in most cases, the creator hasn’t lost anything.

Of course, you might try to argue that those who use intellectual property without paying money for it do steal the money that they would have owed if they bought it legally. However, two basic problems can be seen with this contention. First of all, nobody ordinarily can know whether the downloader would have paid the price if he didn’t misappropriate the property. So the argument assumes the conclusion that has long been argued for – that it’s real theft.

Meanwhile, the entertainment industry in cooperation with the CCI (Center for Copyright Information) continues arguing that piracy is damaging the economy of the United States with up to $58 billion annually. As a result, online “theft” costs the US about 373,000 lost jobs. Actually, this particular kind of thinking gave birth to such legislation as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Hopefully, everyone who has the least bit of common sense makes all they can to not let this two proposed bills pass. Indeed, this far, SOPA could be considered dead and buried, while ACTA is still waiting to pass the European Court of Justice.

Stuart Green suggested to use words like “unauthorized use”, “trespass”, “conversion”, or “misappropriation” instead of “stealing” and “theft”, because they describe the situation more precisely. Most industry experts agree with him, pointing out that piracy is not stealing, but only copying.

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