Illegitimately sharing and copying a movie, a book, a song, is a criminal offense. That millions of people do the same doesn't make it more legal. But does it make it right? In many countries, jaywalking is illegal, yet most people would not hesitate to cross an empty road even at a red light and we would not consider it morally wrong. But if you impede traffic by doing so, people's opinion might well change.
With file sharing, people will look at you if you impede the other traffic on the net. But as long as you don't impede, they couldn't care less in many cases, and many would agree that file sharing, while illegal, is morally right. But what does it say about our laws, or about our morals, if there's such a big discrepancy?
Mathias Klang will talk about the attempts to regulate technology in todays society, how it relates to our ethical (and cultural!) values and what the letter of the law ought to say to match our moral compass.
by Glyn Moody
In the past, there have been two main classes of things we can share:
physical objects and abstract ideas. Generally, people have regarded
ideas as non-rivalrous, and so something that can and should be shared
quite naturally (although many institutions have tried to put a brake
on that for various reasons), whereas *not* sharing physical things is
generally the rule because of the rivalrous nature of physical objects
that have become property (the commons is obviously an important class
of things that can and are shared).
But today, we have a third class of objects: digital artefacts like
text, music, image and video files. These are not physical - although
they have to be stored in some physical way - and they are not purely
abstract like ideas: we can copy them and hand them around in various
formats. So we need to think about what kind of sharing is
appropriate for them.
The music and film industries are currently engaged in a war against
the idea that these digital artefacts can be freely shared: the
Digital Economy Act in the UK, HADOPI in France, ACTA globally. But
these are artefacts with zero marginal cost; once the file is created,
it can be passed on to every human being on this planet with the means
to use that file, for effectively zero cost. This gives everyone with
a computer/connection access to *all* human knowledge and creativity
once it is digitised - an unprecedented situation.
I would argue the power of doing that - and the moral rightness of
giving everyone in the world equal access to all knowledge and
creativity - is now so great, that existing legal systems that try to
apply intellectual monopolies like copyright and patents to stop it
are not just unworkable (as we see) but ethically wrong. I believe
that the arrival of this new class of digital artefacts with zero
marginal cost brings with them a new imperative to share - and also
means we will need new business models to sustain them.
5th–7th November 2010