An Ethical Evaluation of Peer-to-Peer File Swapping

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An Ethical Evaluation of Peer-to-Peer File Swapping Abstract The last few years has seen an explosion in the use of the Internet as a means for exchanging, free of charge, digital media by way of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing technologies. Initially, the practice was primarily limited to the swapping of music, in the form of MP3 files. The pervasiveness of broadband, the advent of newer file types, and the creation of more sophisticated technologies has subsequently made possible the exchange of other types as well – including movies, television shows and software. Again, for free. In this paper, we will explore the ethical considerations of this practice as it relates to Intellectual Property (IP) – whether protected by copyright law or not. We will concentrate primarily on music, but where appropriate, other media will be considered, as many of the issues are common across the different types. Taking a global perspective, one must keep in mind that the term “copyright” is not universally defined, accepted, or enforced. We must therefore use the term with the United State’s definition as a basis. However, absent U.S. law, we must also consider the creator’s intent as it relates to the distribution and use of his or her work. This exploration will lead us to a universal position – one that claims that the wide-scale, free exchange of Intellectual Property by means of P2P technology is unethical. The Technology The P2P model gained wide scale notoriety with the success of Napster in late 1999. Almost overnight, P2P and Napster became household words. There are essentially two variations of the P2P model – the Napster model and the Gnutella model. Both follow the fundamental principle of P2P sharing ... ... middle of paper ... ... Article also available on the web at:,9171,1101030505-447204,00.html [10] Preston Carter – engineer at Hewlett-Packard – and a very insightful friend. References In addition to references cited above: Nolo Press, Nolo Law For All, Copyright Ownership: Who Owns What? Nolo Press, Nolo Law For All, Copyrighting Your Software – Why Bother? Nolo Press, Nolo Law For All, Copyright Protection: What It Is, How It Works

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