File sharing: the global power into our homes

People are used to own a lot of stuff since a lot of years, and nowadays these things are even more:cloths, food, houses, land, cars, devices, a massy amount of possessions. Many of them are necessary for our survival, others for our life quality. All these stuff is called tangible property. But humans do not only need tangible property to evolve, they are intellectual beings that need to develop similarly their minds and their world’s perception. This is the reason that intellectual labors appeared, therefore intellectual property. Examples of this kind of property are inventions, scripts, music, movies, etc. The digitalisation of  these  intellectual material made the access to this kind of data easier for a bigger amount of population. The paradox thing  about this is that if one gives their digitised products to an other, they do not miss anything.

For example if you have a wonderful, “super wow” car and your neighbor has no car, is it reasonable to ask you to give them yours? And it is possible for you to grant it? If you do it, how are you gonna transport yourself and your family? You will have to work for other five years to buy a new one. In a spiritual aspect, if you do it it is a good turn and you are benefited inwards, but in the everyday outward way of life you  harm yourself and your family (this is an other subject for discussion). Simirarly this can happen also if you own a book and you grant it (you will never be able to read it again, unless you have the money to buy it for a second time), a Cd with music, a movie DVD, etc. But in the digital world these obstacles completely disappear. If someone from the past could come in our time and you told them “I gave this book to my friend, but I still have it” they surely would think that you are either crazy or a wizard. Since the data (music, movies, software programs, scripts, games) have been digitised it is very easy and comfortable for people to share them. Negative points: a number of people working in the industries (labels) exporting these data  (trackdrivers, designers, print pressmen, mechanics, etc) will lose a lot of money, or maybe they will be fired from their jobs, so themselves and their family will be harmed. Some people also believe that the whole society gets harmed as these data, after production’s shortage of money, become less and undeveloped. Positive points: a lot of people that you know and you do not know benefit from the obtainment of all these digital goods. Some of them maybe can afford these data, and some cannot. Free sharing of digital data empowers the people’ equality and offers acongenial opportunities. Of course every digital data requests for the right hardware equipment, and usually this equipment is just the computer. An other positive point contradicts the negative point referred above, that the data stagnate. Many occasions of open source software (mozilla firefox, linux, wordpress, stockfish, wikipedia etc) have proved that the possibility of open use and process in the software’s algorithm motivates many programers to enhance and improve them more quickly than a close industry, or maybe entirely change them. Some of the voluntary programers cooperate developing  powerful works. The enhanced free license software is being shared again to users and soon someone else will improve it more. This can happen with all sorts of data, involving music, photos, games, programs, even movies. On the issue of companies’ stuff retrenchment, there is also an argumentation. We are aware that digitisation or “transformation of atoms  into bytes” [1] has begun through new media technologies since 1980. While some types of occupations have been vanishing, some other have been evolving during all these years, so the form of work is changing for many people, introducing them in a digital businesslike environment (web designers, web tecnicians, web developers, network analysts, programmers, network administrators, software engineers, digital identity’s promoters, etc).

According to the above, digital free sharing is the best choice for us. As Richard Stallman says “Cooperation is more important than copyright” [2], and as Benjamin Franklin said three centuries ago “As we enjoy great advantages from the invention of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this should do freely and generously” [3]. Governments try to block copyright with many laws during all these years side to big companies (RIAA),  and companies try to invent different ways that deter copyright (IFPI, BPI) side to money. But digital data is not any more under companies’ and governments’ control. As long as internet access is available to people, digital material belongs to everybody. Maybe we are entering into an era that access will replace ownership [4], and we will be able to get real time data from a worldwide digital storage.

And finally who is the producer and who is the consumer? Even the employees from the companies are consumers and the benefits they will gain from the legitimacy of file sharing will be more important than whatever loss. The free sharing of data is a thorn into the capital body of the existing society. I think the companies should adapt to the digital free sharing and maybe the whole society could change toward this way, as nowadays thousands of people can work together through internet service, using their own computers and every kind of  digital recording and processing  devices,  and producing “high-quality” and “idustrial-strong” software. A new universal language and culture have been evolving since computers and internet became part of our lives, so it is also time for the economic system to be renewed.

“A message to all those dot-com “fat-years” digital music pioneers that have been hunkering down for the past two to three years: You weren’t wrong – you were just way too early!”   –    Gerd Leonhard

[1] Jenkins, H. (2007) Worship at the Altar of Convergence – a new paradigm for understanding media change in, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide

[2] Stallman, R. (2003) “Why software should not have owners”, on GNU Operating System website <www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-free.html> [accessed 02/11/2010]

[3] Quinn, M.J. (2009) Intellectual Property, Ethics for the Information Age Ch.4. Pearson: Addison Wesley, ISBN 978-0-321-54936-5

[4] Leondard, G. (2010) “Gerd Leonhard: Social Media & Entertainment Brans”, on MIPTV-The Future of TV and Social Media website <http://www.mediafuturist.com/> [accessed 02/11/2010]

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