Debate: DRM, Pt. 1

Current IP Law is Unenforceable

Feel free to check out the introduction to the debate

Freedom of File Sharing side

Point 1: Enforceability

If you take a book or CD off a neighbor’s shelf, is it stealing? Yes. Of course it is. The fundamental problem with this is that your neighbor no longer has the book or the CD in question. Is it considered stealing if you read that book, or listen to the CD? Have you somehow reduced the value of either object? No. Those who would put DRM (Digital Rights Management) software on all IPF (Intellectual Property [containing] Files) seem to believe otherwise. In many cases, IPFs cannot be freely transfered between computers or devices due to DRM software.

But let’s not mince words. The problem isn’t that iTunes will only let us listen to our music on five computers and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to transfer music from one computer to another, particularly music not acquired through iTunes. The problem is that we’re expected to pay for music, music files with prohibitive DRM, when we could get the same file DRM free elsewhere. The only hitch is that this action is illegal under current law in the U.S., at least for certain methods of acquiring the file. Limewire, Frostwire, and BitTorrent are all filesharing programs which cannot be legally used to share copyrighted files such as most music, books, or movies in digital format. Other methods of acquiring files, namely MP3 search engines such as Skreemr are in a legal gray area.

So why, other than the presence of the law, should I not download MP3s and other files for free? Am I going to get caught? Probably not. Even if the feds somehow discover that I’ve downloaded a file via Limewire or BitTorrent, it’s nearly impossible to trace that file to discover whether or not the source was legal, or where I got it from. Especially with BitTorrent. It’s not as if the government can track every transaction made over the internet so that in some police office near you a little light goes off for your address whenever an illegal file is transfered to or from your computer.

Let’s assume for a moment that websites such as SkreemR are made illegal and removed from the internet in a sudden, decisive government action. Further assume that all file sharing programs are made illegal (they are currently legal, but the sharing of IPF is an illegal use), and are magically erased from all computers. I can still find files, with a little more difficulty, on the internet. Some obsessed secretary typed up the entirety of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone into a .txt file and posted it on his personal website? Cool, I’ll download it and put it on my Kindle. Not convinced? Alright, assume that someone develops an amazing web crawler which finds and deletes any illigal IPF posted on the web. What’s to stop my friends and I from e-mailing each other all the songs off of any CD’s that we buy? Absolutely nothing (say it again).

Now, this is specific to music and multimedia, but note that there is no DRM on most CDs

Ive found the answer!

I've found the answer!

and DVDs sold in stores today. Thus there is no need for DRM to be cracked before distributing a file. All that needs to happen is for one person with little to no technical know now to buy a CD or DVD and upload contained the IPF to the internet. All of a sudden there’s no need for anyone else to buy a copy- it’s freely available to anyone in the world.

The totality of that availability- the fact that anyone in the world can download it- offers another complication. The laws and regulations of multiple international juristictions. Hypothetical situation. User 1 lives in Bangladesh, where IP law protects music for ten years. Ten years after the song “Hittin’ up the Hits” was registered and released in Bangladesh, User 1 uploads the file to her blog. User 2 lives in Brazil, where IP law protects music indefinitely. User 2 sees the song on the blog and downloads it. Legally, things get really complicated, really fast.

The last defense for the downloader of illegal IPF is this- strength in numbers. There are far too many people downloading them to catch them all. IP law in the Information Age is like Prohibition. It may or may not be a good idea from an idealogical standpoint, but it’s not going to work. The government should just eliminate or alter the law and stop embarrassing itself by pretending that the current law has any meaning.

Next: Rebuttle of Point 1 by Intellectual Property Protector

After that: We get into the justification and ethics.

P.S. Either my computer or WordPress exploded and stopped this from being published on time. I only just noticed. Sorry about that.