15 April 2010

Digital Economy Act: Built on Sand

One of the many frustrating aspects of the recent debate on the Digital Economy Bill was the constant repetition of two major inaccuracies. The first, that unauthorised file sharing is theft, argues an appalling level of legal literacy among our elected representatives. Such file sharing is actually the infringement of a time-limited, government-granted monopoly, which is very different from stealing your bicycle (for a handy illustration of the difference, don't miss this.)

On Open Enterprise blog.

1 comment:

Crosbie Fitch said...

It remains important to bear in mind that the natural right is to privacy.

Theft is a violation of that right (from which the notion of property derives), through the removal of material possessions.

Problems arise when people infer a natural right as limited to a specific violation. It is just as much a violation of privacy to burgle an individual's house and make and remove a copy their diary as it is to remove their diary. The fact that a burglar may be productive in their act is irrelevant.

So people do have a natural exclusive right to the intellectual works in their possession, against unauthorised copying as much as removal. This is a natural monopoly that lasts a lifetime.

It is only the unnatural monopoly of copyright, that 18th century privilege, that inveigles itself as a laudable extension.

So, copying is not theft, but that doesn't mean that in some cases unauthorised copying can't violate privacy as much as unauthorised material removal. A thief generally seeks to gain. The spiteful burglar seeking to deprive is a rarity.

In other words, to elevate copying into an intrinsically good act because it is apparently productive, is to lose sight of what makes theft unethical.