Calling on the lazyweb

by Henry on January 13, 2006

I’m updating the syllabus for my Politics of the Internet course, and looking, as I have been looking since I began teaching it, for an academic article/policy paper that makes the case _against_ filesharing and P2P services. There are plenty of articulate pieces written by pro-P2P types, but nothing from the other side, apart from RIAA press releases. When I’m teaching a controversial topic, I like to have good pieces written by people on both sides. Anyone have any pointers?

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01.14.06 at 11:10 pm



Seth Finkelstein 01.13.06 at 5:29 pm

Sorry. Everything else is RIAA press releases in disguise :-).

Seriously, there’s tons of bloviation on property-theft-stealing-artists-hackers-etc-etc.

Are you looking for something in particular which makes most of the obvious stuff unsuitable?


Kieran Healy 01.13.06 at 5:43 pm

Henry, you’re ruining the reputation of capitalism-hating, freedom-despising, doctrinaire, crypto-stalinist marxist tenured radicals everywhere. Stop it.


Boo 01.13.06 at 7:36 pm

Nobody is against the various P2P protocols in themselves, just like nobody is against FTP or RTSP. (Well, some people prefer one to another for reasons of efficiency, privacy, or file availability, but I doubt you meant this.)

Some people might be disapprove of certain P2P applications which contain spyware or adware, but this isn’t the sort of thing academics write papers about.

I think what you are looking for is arguments against piracy or in support of intellectual property rights. These aren’t hard to find.


abb1 01.13.06 at 7:42 pm

File-sharing is wrong. Files mustn’t be shared, it’s somewhere in the Bible.


abb1 01.13.06 at 7:56 pm

Yes, here it is:

‘He who shares my file has lifted up his heel against me.’

— the direct proof of the wickedness of file-sharing.


mrjauk 01.13.06 at 8:20 pm

Kieran beat me to it. According to David Horowitz, Henry, you (or your type) don’t even exist, so I’m not certain whether I should take this post seriously as it most likely was written by someone who is most certainly not a university professor in the US.


JohnLopresti 01.13.06 at 9:17 pm

Perhaps the problem is your blogroll, where I note the v-conspirator and L-Solum: one needs to take the corporate view in these matters if one is to aspire to hearing the burnished western boardroom view. And while Volokh and Solum might support the contra-p2p view, they downplay it on their websites.
Now, I would ask myself why would p2p be the essence?–aha, of course, the students: these are impecunious youth among whom one benefit of p2p is its baseline thriftiness; of course, there are other paradigms, as in iconoclastic youth sharing their generation’s own music.
To reply to your point, I had a strange disaffected reaction upon visiting a tech site whereat editors, in the true tradition of editors everywhere mostly, were grasping at paeans for the corporate sponsors at
That site has a blog that is comprised somewhat of a lot of hackers impressing each other with acronyms and knowledge of rude verbal expressions; but the site’s demographic also includes attorneys and engineers; quite a pot pourri of intellect; so the blog host can be knowledgeable of tech, but need not provide a modern liberal viewpoint, and may opt to let the participants provide that proletarian flavor; and rest assured they provide quite a lively and informed blog. I discovered the site during the first blush after the datamining government snooping scandal appeared in the media last month; arstecnica was full of nonchalant observations that this stuff has been around for ten years so what’s-the-surprise. There were some more cerebral viewpoints on that topic amid the long threads of blogdom there. The site’s frontpage, however, is a mix of silicon valley news, editorial content, and the like; and there are some opinions there taking the view of the corporate defender of intellectual property. You might try a google search for Sony + p2p; I think Sony recently issued a corporate commentary in the matter of its DVD crypto key software’s having a DOS-attack bug, wherefore finally they have announced they will discontinue use of that particular scheme of copy protection; but in their rhetoric there may be some diplomatic words espousing the profitmaking view which you are attempting to find. I am not sure the consumer branch of Sony is as sophisticated as its electronics test divisions, but you might find some suitable solid corporate law views there. Of course, Findlaw is replete with copyright advocacy; their site is redesigned, and it takes a little clicking to find your discussion area. They use flowery language, though; may be ill suited to your classwork; depends on your students’ profile.
In a humorous view: How about checking the website of the US Trade representative: he is on the record as defending US intellectual property interests in tough bargaining ongoing in the Far East, recently in the WTO talks; and obtained great concessions in that regard while Korean farmers protested along the pier. It is a classic negotiation issue between Singapore and the US, as well.
Well, I thought it was funny.
John L.


Luc 01.13.06 at 10:01 pm

Putting some references found in technical stuff in (scholar.)google, you’ll get to Richard Spinello.

An example here.

A bit too much for me though.


jerome langguth 01.14.06 at 7:50 am

You might check out the online writings of Robert Fripp, the guitarist and founder of the “progressive rock” outfit King Crimson. Fripp is a mighty articulate and persuasive fellow, and as I recall he takes a dim view of things like filesharing, etc. You can take a look at his diary on the Discipline Mobile Global website (his record company).

Jerome Langguth


Chris Bertram 01.14.06 at 7:54 am

Play them Gillian Welch singing “Everything is Free”.


Tyler Cowen 01.14.06 at 8:03 am

Try Stanley Liebowitz…


Bro. Bartleby 01.14.06 at 10:34 am

‘He who shares my file has lifted up his heel against me.’

That is the ultra-orthodox reading of the text, the orthodox reading is:

‘If it is a matter of life and death, one may consume as many files as necessary for survival, otherwise it is simple theft of property.’

The Council of Gaterian clarified the issue with:

‘If it is a matter of tenure, one may consume as many files as necessary for survival, in no case will it be considered theft.’


Ted 01.14.06 at 12:48 pm

I half-wrote a long post on this very topic, which leaned heavily on posts from the punk rock musicians Dr. Frank and Ben Weasel. (They’re aganst it.) I never finished my own post, but here’s Ben Weasel: (1) and (2). And here’s Dr. Frank: (1), (2) and (3).


abb1 01.14.06 at 1:50 pm

If it is a matter of life and death, one may consume as many files as necessary for survival, otherwise it is simple theft of property.

But file sharing as such does not necessarily have anything to do with any theft of property. IP is a related but separate issue.


derrida derider 01.14.06 at 10:58 pm

Enough of this casuistry, abb1! It is the inention in the heart that matters, not the mere accidental effects.

As St Gates of Redmond wrote “He that installeth non-conforming software, though he avoid actual the heinous sin of its use, hath wilfully exposed himself to the occasion of sin. The lord shall be pissed and smite him with unexplained hangs.” The point is that wilful exposure to the occasion of sin is a sin in itself.


Charly 01.15.06 at 11:34 am

TV-series, most of them are broadcast first and then sold on DVD. Or to put it differently. You can tape them for free. So no. I don’t think Pirate2Pirate will kill the DVD. Especially when the quality is a little bit worse then DVD


Henry 01.15.06 at 1:27 pm

Thanks for the suggestions all, although nothing really there that was exactly what I’m looking for. The Spinello is close – but the Lockean take on property may be a little too much for undergraduates w/o a political theory background. The Liebowitz reading is good, but too measured and empirically based – he doesn’t stick the shiv in, like he does with the PD stuff. But thanks again.


awurrlu 01.17.06 at 9:37 am

This interesting and pretty readable piece from HP tackles the privacy part:

Usability and privacy: a study of Kazaa P2P file-sharing

It is a few years old, though…

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