Ritualistic File-Sharing

This paper explains how the intellectual property laws are ignored on Napster, Kazaa, Gnutella and other file-sharing networks.

This essay is an in-depth analysis of file-sharing technology (Napster, Kazaa) and its relation to modern intellectual property laws. In order to structure the analysis, theoretical work from two prominent communications scholars – Harold Innis and James Carey – is employed. These authors divided media into two types: Innis categorized media as either time-biased or space biased, while Carey said media was either ritual or transmission. Ritual/time-biased media resist control and intellectual property laws, and file-sharing networks are ritual and time-biased. This essay defines the medium of file-sharing networks, intellectual property, the terms used by Innis and Carey, and shows how the nature of the medium explains why intellectual property laws are ignored on file-sharing networks.
From the paper:

“From a modern, literate, perspective the current economic and legal debate over file-sharing is a teeming with contradictions. Most people find the thought of shoplifting a CD repugnant, yet many of those same people wouldn?t hesitate to borrow a copy from a friend or download a song from a complete stranger. What is the cause of this dichotomy? Can one be a consumer and a thief at the same time? This essay proposes that answers can be found by examining the media in question. Most modern investigation of this subject, critical and legal, is rooted in one specific perspective, but media scholars like Harold Innis and James Carey have in fact proposed two. Logically and historically, intellectual property rights appear in one and not the other. The following pages will define the medium in question and the two perspectives. Next these definitions will be used to place the medium in the most appropriate frame. Once the medium is categorized, the work of Innis and Carey will be applied to show how the nature of the medium determines the role of intellectual property.”

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