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Embrace file-sharing, or die

A record executive and his son make a formal case for freely downloading music. The gist: 50 million Americans can't be wrong.


"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property." [Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac McPherson in 1813]


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed by Congress in 1998 to address how technological innovation would affect intellectual property. In drawing up the document, Congress looked to the RIAA and similar groups for guidance as to what the law should contain. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently released a study titled "Unintended Consequences: Four Years Under the DMCA" which goes on to detail how the "anti-circumvention" clauses of the DMCA have been used to stifle innovation, censor free speech, and threaten academic/scientific research. These chilling effects of the DMCA contradict and limit the "fair use" doctrine that is an important part of copyright law. Additionally, the digital rights management (DRM) initiatives that the RIAA and MPAA propose to protect their copyrights do nothing to protect the "fair use" rights of consumers.


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[For more on Jefferson's letter and patenting in general, see:]

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