File Sharing Revolution

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Barry Shell
Simon Fraser University

All around us the masses are furiously downloading every sort of content, much of it copyrighted music, video, movies, and software. This revolution has already happened and while corporate interests attempt to stop it with law, nobody seems to recognize the phenomenon as a natural human tendency to share ideas.


The top ten most downloaded programs at are all concerned with P2P file sharing or manipulating shared files, or sharing information freely. This has been true for years, even before Napster shut down. Apple's best selling iPod, new giant hard-drives, DVD-burners, and high speed Internet have one purpose: to handle all the free stuff people are downloading. Yet, while this massive grass roots revolution demonstrates a fundamental change in our attitude to intellectual property, ownership, and copyright, few public bodies represent this movement. Private groups (e.g. RIAA) oppose the movement, but the behaviour of hundreds of millions of people will be difficult to stop. This pattern of human sharing is hardly recognized by the state or media except as a crime. Few individuals do business on the Internet but they conduct billions of free "sharing transactions" every day. This pattern needs to be recognized and supported at all levels.


The CPSR and sympathetic groups should actively lobby and recruit people to fill the boards of organizations like FCC, FTC, W3C, IETF, and ICANN so that these bodies more accurately represent what the masses are actually doing with the Internet: they share stuff for free, not for commerce.

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