16th aug, 2012

Sharing music, or stealing music?

Some days ago I read an older post by Nicolas Carr called”Beyond theft and sharing”. The post is a very good one and explores what word is best used to describe unauthorized appropriation of music – Theft or sharing?

Theft is – as described in the post – traditionally a word used when a person loses something because another person takes it without permission. As is pointed out this definition is pre-digital and maybe it could be extended to cover digital theft also…the theft results in the artist losing money = very concrete (unleash the hounds on me claiming that the artist wouldn’t have made money then because the “thief” would not buy the music).

Richard Stallman prefers the word sharing over theft – which is understandable since sharing is a positive word and theft is a negative one.

But here comes Carr´s really good point: “Sharing is an intimate act, a human act, and we’ve always sensed that it describes an act of generosity between people who are connected in some meaningful, tangible way: friends and family, for instance, or neighbors, or coworkers. If you try to stretch the meaning of sharing to cover anonymous, large-scale exchanges, you distort the word; you lose its essence.”

I very much agree that the word “sharing” describes an intimate relationship between people who know eachother. In a network context it may have a wider use but between people it is narrow. That is why sharing music cannot be used for describing what goes on, on a torrent site. On a torrent site you steal other people’s opportunity to make money. Piracy could be an alternative.


False dichotomy, much?

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