22 June 2006

Stolen's a Strong Word, a Wrong Word

Interesting point in this Computerworld blog posting:

If you read way down to the bottom of a Wall Street Journal interview with Bill Gates that ran yesterday, you'll discover that the Microsoft executive admitted to watching pirated movies on the Internet.

Unfortunately, Wall Street Journal is subscribers only. But the key exchange was the following:

WSJ: But those were stolen, correct?

Gates: Stolen's a strong word. It's copyrighted content that the owner wasn't paid for. So yes.

Yes, stolen is a strong word - and the wrong word. Nobody lost anything when Gates viewed those YouTube videos. On the contrary, those who produced that content gained something hugely valuable: the attention of the richest man in the world. Gates was actually giving, not taking, and he was right not to accept the WSJ's simplistic description.

This exchange alone shows why most thinking about copyright and its so-called infringement is wrong-headed, and why this whole area needs to be re-thought in the light for the digital age. Alas, the blog posting's analysis gets it completely the wrong way round. (Via Digg.)

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