A federal injunction has permanently shut down Limewire, a popular P2P filesharing service. The only real surprise there is that it took so long. Limewire was around back in the day when I cared about finding easy access downloads on the net. Ie: before I had kids.
These days, it’s my stepson who’s interested in filesharing. What will he and his friends do now? Use a different site. Blogs all over are already posting instructions on alternatives like Frostwire for bereft Limewire users.
Now might be a good moment for parents to be talking to their kids about what they’re doing late at night with their Internet connections. Limewire’s shutdown is just the latest in a long series of legal actions taken against filesharing services.
As we all know, the music industry sometimes goes after individual users, too. They don’t care if your kid is, well, a kid. If she’s illegally sharing music or video files, she could be a target.
This is a complicated conversation in my household. Various members of my family have professional interests in open sharing of information: we’re librarians, open source software developers, anarchists. Not good cheerleaders for the current laws about filesharing copyrighted media.
I don’t download torrents myself (hear that, RIAA? Walk on by. I’m not the droid you’re looking for.). That’s more because I think it’s a hassle than because I think it’s wrong. Though, I don’t exactly think it’s right either.This is an ethical puzzle I haven’t resolved for myself.
What I do think is that our society is better off when people have free access to information and art. Right now, our main industries for producing popular music, movies and books are based on selling individual copies of those things to individual consumers, and filesharing threatens that model.
Is P2P filesharing a bold act of redistributing intellectual wealth to the commons, Robin Hood style, or a simple act of theft? I think, over time, that model will be largely replaced. We’re already seeing it shift. Eventually, the whole debate will subside. Someday the whole industry and culture will evolve to make that question meaningless.
So when my son asks what he should do about downloading media from the Internets, it’s not a simple answer.
I’m certainly not comfortable telling my child to go ahead and commit a crime. On the other hand, I disagree with the copyright laws; my perfect world would have more free flow of information.
For me, it’s been a priority to make sure he:
- Understands that sharing copyrighted material like popular music and movies is illegal.
- Knows that people, including kids like him, have been sued for it and fined huge sums of money.
- Is clear that, because of the legal issues, I would strongly prefer he not use our home Internet connection to download anything that might be copyright protected.
- Is familiar with both sides of the ethical argument about downloading copyrighted material.
- Knows about Creative Commons licensing and how to use it to find cool, free stuff that was intended to be shared.
Like any difficult subject, I’m grateful that he talks to me about it. Those conversations build trust between us to talk about even more important topics, and keep me in the loop about what my kid is up to.
Do you talk to your kids about filesharing? Do you plan to?
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