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December 01, 2003
60 Million Moral Exemplars
Copyright Scholar and Law Professor Jessica Litman has posted a new work in progress dealing with the question of file-sharing and compulsory license (Sharing and Stealing). It is an interesting paper, and one that I am thinking about and hope to write a few more comments on. However, I did want to point out a sentence that has been quoted on Legal Theory Blog and Copyfight:
The fact that more than sixty million consumers are currently exchanging music over peer-to-peer networks in the U.S. gives them a stake in the building consensus and both a moral and a political claim to a seat at the copyright bargaining table.
I don't believe that the fact that you file-share gives you any more moral or political claim to a seat at the copyright bargaining table. Copyright is about issues of culture and free speech. I think that is a sufficient basis for a strong moral and political claim for every citizen to have a seat at the copyright bargaining table. Prof. Litman certainly didn't mean that only file-sharers have a right to be at the bargaining table, but the impression given is that file-sharers somehow have privileged status.
Sixty million people can't be wrong is the oft-heard phrase. Yes, they can. A stronger moral claim to be part of the bargaining process can be made by those who boycott the artists whose representatives attack innovation and fair uses, rather than those who merely desire "free music."
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