Morgan, excellent questions. To bring you back from the world of Truman and into the tecnnolibertarian fold, here are some of the principles listed on Free Culture’s website:

“We won’t allow the content industry to cling to obsolete modes of distribution through bad legislation. We will be active participants in a free culture of connectivity and production, made possible as it never was before by the Internet and digital technology, and we will fight to prevent this new potential from being locked down by corporate and legislative control.”

OK, first let’s do some unpacking. What do we mean by “obsolete modes of distribution”? I’ve mentioned it before, but I think there’s a nice analogue to the Sony decision of 1984. So let’s look at it through this historical lens. In the 1980’s people “pirated” television shows by recording them to VHS, sometimes amassing private libraries of considerable size for a time of analog technologies. The industry of course cried “foul” and wanted to put home recording to a halt. They saw it as outright theft and a threat to the film industry. But people kept recording. And in roughly a decade there was already emerging vital markets for video cassette sales and rentals. The same thing may well happen with file sharing. The EFF, as I mentioned, makes a convincing case for a world of “legal downloading.” Their idea of “voluntary collective licensing” is already being picked up by various services.

To speak to the ethics involved, I have to throw some questions back at you. Can we ever fully know the ramifications of our actions? And if we can’t should this stop us from choosing what we believe to be the right action? I believe we are so often saddled with the vision of our current situation that it is hard to make claims either way about the nature of right and wrong. (This is in no way to situate myself as a relativist; I do believe in many things are right and wrong across time and space.) Because what might seem like “stealing” today may become a perfectly legal act in the future.

Daniel Corbett

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