Wednesday, April 13, 2005

who has the right to judge you?

There’s a lot of talk, in public and in legal circles, about the impact of file sharing on the industry, and on artists. One result of the prevalence of p2p technology is people’s tendency to rely on it for things they used to do in other ways.

So for music, this includes things like sending a copy to a friend, making a mix, sampling a song or sections of a song for personal use or to perform as part of a larger work. Many many people have always done these kinds of things. Nowadays, at first the convenience of doing those same things online, with digital media, encourages people to switch to online versions of these activities. Of course, the difference which everyone goes on and on about is the amount of sharing and copying, and the geographical ranges involved.

So, much has been made of these "scale effects" of the use of new technology on the industries involved (i.e. your mixtape reaches millions of people all over the world) – and people try to examine the effects on publishers, and on the industry, and occasionally (but rarely) on artists.

However, I see far less attention given to the effects on our privacy of these, after all, normal and familiar and valued behaviors suddenly being “trackable” by the state and by the “rights-owners.” All of these behaviors are being subject to legal scrutiny, in part because it is possible to do so, not just because it is possibly more harmful. The law can interfere with us, can stipulate and sanction our behavior that before was at our own discretion, we can be sued and have to justify it on their terms...

What is the effect on us, on society, of this scrutiny on our own choices and relationships? is it worth conceding without a fight?

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