Is It Theft, or Is It Freedom? 7 Views of the Web’s Impact on Culture Clashes

“File sharing” sounds innocent enough. But the practice of downloading data files from the Internet is at the center of a battle between the entertainment industry and Internet-connected consumers.

“File sharing” sounds innocent enough. But the practice of downloading data files from the Internet is at the center of a battle between the entertainment industry and Internet-connected consumers.

Today, file sharing mainly refers to songs that computer users download in the MP3 format from others’ hard drives through online services such as Napster. The music industry says this is stealing from artists and their record labels. The downloaders reply it is no different than borrowing a CD from a friend. But while Congress and the courts wrestle with legalities, file sharing is spreading to other forms of cultural “content.” Any kind of entertainment that can be digitized can also be sent over the Internet. As bandwidth expands, video games, movies and pay-per-view television broadcasts could be swapped as quickly and easily as songs. Already, multimedia file-sharing services like Gnutella and Scour Exchange provide a glimpse of this future. If Hollywood were to film the battle between industry titans and Internet revolutionaries, it might title the epic “Culture Clash.”

At the request of The New York Times, seven people on the battlefield’s front lines agreed to meet for a roundtable discussion of the issues. The participants were Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group representing the major record labels; David Boies, a New York attorney defending Napster against an RIAA lawsuit; Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which recently held hearings on downloadable music; the filmmaker Kevin Smith (“Chasing Amy,” “Dogma”); Gene Kan, a Gnutella software developer; Esther Dyson, the author and venture capitalist; and Craig Newell, a 17-year-old consumer from Lynnfield, Mass. Befitting the topic, the discussion was conducted entirely in cyberspace, through exchanges of e-mail messages.

more…

Author: MATTHEW MIRAPAUL

News Service: nytimes.com

URL: http://partners.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/09/biztech/technology/20mirapaul.html