With the advent of the internet and the increasing ease at which files can be shared between its users, many have touted that there can never be a mutual understanding and agreement between content creators and the public good. One of the arguments is that content creators need to make a living. Once their works are copyrighted, they have “exclusive rights to their creations for a limited time, and thus can benefit financially from their creations, which should provide them an incentive to continue creating” (Ovalle, 2005). However, with information being shared so easily and freely among users of the internet, these “exclusive rights” seem to not apply anymore, and most content creators are launching legal battles against internet users who infringe on the copyright act. This then, is the interest of content creators.
The interest of the public good on the other hand, is in the sharing of information through communication (Litman, 2003). The internet in particular, has helped users achieve this ability to heights never imagined. This sharing of information has only grown more efficient over the years, and has greatly benefited users of the internet in terms of creativity. Creativity in their opinion is when they take information from various sources and combine them with their own to form a new synthesis. If there is a technology to be used, then we should make full use of it to the best of our abilities, lest it should be curbed by copyright laws and such. Is there any middle ground then, which can accommodate both the interest of content creators and the public good?
Despite the complexity of the issue at hand, some believe that it is still possible that both the interests of content creators and the public good can be accommodated. After all, both are in the business of sharing information.
Take the online music industry for example. Musicians want to share their music with the public. The public want to share this music with others. The only difference is that the musicians rely on the sharing of their information to make a living. When their sales are affected by peer-to-peer sharing among the internet community, they are adversely affected and thus turn to the copyright act as a means of cutting losses.
Several scholars have proposed different solutions to ease this tension. One would be the adoption of a system that would permit peer-to-peer file sharing, but charge a certain amount of money to its users. This money would then be used to compensate the content creators. Another, as proposed by Professor Terry Fisher, would be to encourage copyright owners to register their works to obtain a unique registration number. This number then, would be indicated whenever a transaction occurred over the internet, and the relevant proceeds would go to the content creator based on the volume of information shared between users (Litman, 2003).
Whatever solutions there may be, the onus in my opinion, still rests on the public as to how to reconcile the two seemingly conflicting views. While the proliferation of peer-to-peer file sharing may not have adversely affected record sales, as according to an empirical analysis done (Oberholzer-Gee & Strumpf, 2005), we simply cannot be blind to the fact that copyrighted content is being shared freely over the internet. The responsibility then lies with us to be sensitive to the needs of the content creators. If for example, you download a copyrighted song album and enjoy the music, then you must have the responsibility to support the band by purchasing their album. Both parties in this case benefit. The musician through good sales, has the incentive to continue creating good music. And the public continue to enjoy and benefit from them.
The interests of content creators and the public good can be accommodated. If all else fails, at least we still both have a common ground to work upon – the sharing of information. In the bid to share information over the internet, let us also be considerate of the other’s needs.
Ovalle, C. (2005). An Introduction to Copyright. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from
Litman, J. (2003). Sharing and Stealing. Social Science Research Network. Retrieved February 2, 2007 from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=472141
Oberholzer-Gee, F., & Strumpf, K. (2005). The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales, An Empirical Analysis. Retrieved February 2, 2007 fromhttp://www.unc.edu/%7Ecigar/papers/FileSharing_June2005_final.pdf