Thursday, January 30, 2020

Ethics of Peer to Peer downloading and Sharing Essay Example for Free

Ethics of Peer to Peer downloading and Sharing Essay Abstract In the short time that computers and internet have existed in the modern era, the world has seen a complete 360 degree turn and in the various forms of electronic entertainment that people all over the world are now using. In the days before CD’s, DVD’s and the internet, not much was said if a vinyl album (remember these?), VHS cassette (or these?) or an audio cassette was loaned to a friend for their listening / viewing pleasure, but today with the availability of sending an email with three or four megabytes (mb) of information, one can enjoy a borrowed song but is assumed that it is piracy or stealing. Is this a fair assumption? This Author will not give his opinion but rather discuss both sides of the Peer to Peer (P2P) downloading and sharing issues and let the reader form their own opinions. Peer downloading and Sharing: Definition and History â€Å"Peer-to-Peer† technology, what is meant when this phrase is mentioned in the world of electronic entertainment or computers? Usually in today’s environment, this phrase has a negative connotation assigned to it, but this phrase deserves a deeper investigation into all aspects of the concept. Peer-to-Peer technology is defined by the textbook of this class as â€Å"technology which permits easy transfer of files over the Internet by large numbers of strangers without a centralized system or service.† (Baase, 2008) When this definition is read, does it imply an impartial connotation or is the definition insinuating that this technology is wrong without some form of centralized system or service? Who knows? This is up to the reader to decide, but much probably depends on the readers personal opinion on the matter. With the textbook’s definition stated, what is actually meant by P2P technology? In Basic English, P2P technology is the ability share / loan / give an electronic file of any sort, be it music, software, video or documents, with anyone that is logged onto to the same server or network as the person in possession of the file. Another important definition that needs to be stated is that of â€Å"Copyrights.† Copyrights are defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as â€Å": the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work)† (Merriam-Webster 2011) Again in Basic English this translates to that the original owner of a product has all rights to make profits from their product or service. But, there is always a but, as this definition does not state, do these legal rights apply to the sharing of a product or service and thereby not making a profit from the product? There seems to be two main questions that need to be answered and they are: 1) What is the legal definition of â€Å"sharing?† and 2) What is the legal definition of â€Å"making a profit?† It would seem that until someone legally defines these, this will be the never ending question that will continue plague the electronic world of entertainment. These two questions will be discussed later in this document. As with many things in life and technology, when these ideas and concepts were initially invented or designed, apparently these people did not look to the future and what may become of these ideas or designs. When the initial copyright law was passed in 1790, computers, MP3’s and various other forms of electronic technology did not exist and this law only covered books, maps and charts and protected them for 14 years. (Baas, 2008) It wasn’t for almost 130 years that the US Congress updated the law to include photos, sound recording, and movies but again nothing is done to define profit or sharing as it relates to this topic of conversation. As time has passed, various countries, including the USA, have passed and enforced stricter laws, mostly in favor of the entertainment industry. i.e. copyright infringement, illegal sharing of copyrighted material, and profiting from copyrighted material. All of these examples seem very similar but in reality they have some very fine differences that if you ask any judge to define, you may end up with as many different answers from each different judge asked. This is where the dilemma starts. As time has passed and technologies have become available to the average people of the world, including those with lesser amounts of disposable money, the ability to â€Å"share or loan† electronic material has become increasingly popular. The question still remains in the mind of this author; what is the difference between sharing and audio cassette with a friend and sharing an MP3 that has been legally copied from disk or downloaded from Itunes? In the eyes of many people, there is not a difference in these two concepts. In the eyes of many, the concept of sharing a MP3 is that same as sharing a cassette but has followed the theory of evolution and grown from the era of physical items, like cassettes, and evolved to the electronic media market. This sharing concept brings forth another question. Why did music industry and other various media companies not try to enforce the existing laws when it was only video and audio cassettes? Could it be that â€Å"back in the day†, the number of cassettes / albums being shared were not near the numbers of electronic media being shared today? This seems to be the probable answer because to share a cassette or album there needs to be some form of physical contact between the two participants and to share electronic media the two participants can be miles apart and only need a computer with internet or email access. Back in the day, the amounts of profits lost were not worth the legal fees to fight the practice of â€Å"Sharing. Present Day Operations So now let’s jump to the present day and discuss the practice of Sharing as it is being practiced today. By present day, it is to include the modern era of computers and the Internet. With the invention of the Internet, CD’S, DVD’s and other forms of electronic technologies came to associated people that would eventually try to use these inventions to their fullest extent. This too included the sharing of files, music and software. Napster was one of the first agencies to openly advertise that you could â€Å"share† files with their P2P software. What happened? According to, Napster began operation in 2000 and by later in the year, some 60 million users were freely â€Å"sharing electronic media of various forms. This is where the modern practice of enforcing the existing versions of copyright laws was being challenged in court. Napster, as it originally operated, only lasted for about a year and a half before the legal eagles of the media industry came at them with a vengeance and essentially shut them down. These lawyers, representing just about all aspects of the music industry, â€Å"filed suit against the company, alleging vicarious copyright infringement under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1996.† ( Although Napster continued to exist in various forms since 2000, after going legit, they just have not had the same impact on the P2P world that they had back then. As of 30 Nov 2011 Napster, who was owned by Best Buy, has been sold to Rhapsody in an effort to increase Rhapsody leading music subscriber database. ( 2011) Along the same time as the Napster rise and fall, other P2P companies were trying to find every legal loop hole to be able to continue operating without worry of legal action from these media moguls. These companies included, but were not limited to Grokster, Kazaa and the nearly legal Limewire. Throughout the years that followed, these companies tried every possible exception to the laws to circumvent the laws but in the end even Limewire was shut down by the US Gov’t. In the past, when you loaded Limewire’s website, their page was loaded with ads, software download links and various other stuff, but now all you get is the official seal of the US Justice department and a warning that you are trying to access a seized webpage and/or to stop distributing their P2P software. What is interesting now is that the P2P software industry and music / movie are not the only ones trying to stop the use of computers and the internet to share files, now TV moguls are also trying to jump on this bandwagon. In recent years, websites and various users have been streaming live sporting events to the internet via their personal paid cable TV services such as Comcast or DirectTV. The websites included rojadirecta and ahdte, but again if you visit these sites you will be met with the justice department seal and a disclaimer saying they have been seized and shutdown for illegal operations such as copyright infringement. The question now is what is considered ownership of the pay per view service? For example, if customer A uses the pay per view option on his/her cable box, does he/she now own the program and therefore has the right to reproduce the item as they see fit? Or, do they still have to obey the original reproduction laws. Another concept is this. If Customer A purchases the right to view a program and then puts said program available for viewing by friends that visit his/her house, is this copyright infringement? The list of questions goes on and on. If customer A purchases the right to view the program and then chooses to stream the program to a free and public website, can others log onto this website, view the program and not be guilty of breaking any laws. Although there may be some ethical and moral questions to answer for, these do not affect the legality of this arena. Customer A did not make a profit by streaming the program to a free website. Customer A did allow friends to view a program that by legal intention of the law was for the viewing of customer A only. Viewing live streaming is not the exact same as that of P2P sharing of files but does have the same implications. Someone is receiving a product or service that was not paid for, At least this is what the media industry would like the legal system to believe. In the 2011 it would appear that the media industry is winning the legal battles, albeit they are having much more success within the USA than other parts of the world. This is especially true in the more disadvantaged countries. This author will use his current country of Colombia, South America as an example. Here it is very common place to purchase or download shared versions of music, movies and computer software. Why is this? Quite frankly this is a poor country and without these shared versions of these products, people here could not afford any of these products at regular corporate pricing. After experiencing the technological environment here, one can understand why the â€Å"shared† file industry is so important. Ethical Questions So! Many views and examples have been shown for both sides of the P2P and file sharing argument. Now the questions need to be presented as to what laws are actually being violated. The media industry would have you believe that by sending a legally purchased MP3, for example, to a friend for their listening pleasure, that both parties are now breaking the copyright laws for that artist. Furthermore, the media industry wants you to think that if you would not have shared this MP3 with your friend, then this friend would have to go to a store and purchase this same song on a disk. The general public counters these arguments with these answers. The persons sharing the MP3, would argue that they are not violating the law because they are only sharing the music with each other and neither party is making a profit off the item and that by sharing the item first, one can make an informed decision on whether to spend more money for the entire disk or possibly only purchase the single. These same arguments apply to almost all portions of the P2P file sharing industry and live streaming of television events as well. Conclusion Basically it comes down to this. The media industries want to continue receiving and growing their profits and the general public would things for the lowest possible price. Whether or not to use P2P file sharing technology or view live event streaming on computers will always be a moral and ethical question that only one person can answer. That person is, the person that is deciding whether to use the P2P technology or not and will always be a personal issue that each and every one that uses these technologies will have live with. Everyone will have to answer this for themselves. References Baase, S. (2008). A gift of fire. (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform (N.D.). Windows Server 2008 R2, Retrieved Merriam-webster online dictionary (2011) Definition of copyright. Retrieved from History channel (N. D.). The death spiral of Napster begins Retrieved from CNN Money(N.D.), Today is Napsters last day of existence, Retrieved from

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