Is it theft, Open Source, or Confucian homage to the master? Intellectual property: Three (Western) approaches As we saw in chapter 1, there are a number of characteristics of digital media that make the copying and distribution of various kinds of information – whether representing software, a text, a song, or video, etc. – much easier than with analogue media. That is, once we have access to the various components required – access that, despite the grave difficulties of the “digital divide,” is likewise growing rapidly around the world – copying and distributing a file in digital format is both trivially easy and all but cost-free.
Moreover, the general rules, guidelines, and laws applicable to such copying are wide-ranging and frequently shifting. In its ongoing battle against illegal music downloading, the entertainment industry relentlessly lobbies for more stringent laws intended to stop (or at least slow down) widespread distribution of music and video files on the internet via peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing networks. These industries have likewise pushed for digital rights management (DRM) and copy protection schemes also designed to prevent illegal copying or piracy. Such efforts are backed in the United States. According to critics such as the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), “DRM has proliferated thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Corporations claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement online and keep consumers safe from viruses. But there’s no evidence that DRM helps fight either of those. Instead DRM helps big business stifle innovation and competition by making it easy to quash “unauthorized” uses of media and technology.
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