(this page is part of the Family Guide to Digital Freedom, 2007 edition. Please do read that introduction to know more about the Guide, especially if you mean to comment this page. Thanks)

(continues from here)

Some people see all this as a necessary evil by way of transition to a new, copyright-free age. They argue that, if the record companies sue their fans, alienating their audience and victimizing people who don’t even realize that what they’re doing is wrong, eventually those companies will go bankrupt and collapse.

Unfortunately this strategy is either too risky or very inefficient. So far, all it has produced are good pretexts to mess up people’s lives; in the long run, it may just give good excuses to reforms of technology that give no more choice or escape routes to end users. Think about it: all the law proposals for worldwide enforcement of DRM or Trusted Computing schemes which benefit only some multinationals are justified exactly with reports of millions of illegal music and movie downloads which actually take place every month. If both this activity and the legal purchase of those same songs and movies stopped, even for just a few months, those lobbies would have nothing at all left to justify their requests and would quickly have to find other business models. Remember that corporations are just as powerful as they are fragile: even two consecutive quarters with no or lower profits could lead any company which lives on the price and reputation of its stock very close to bankrupt.

Back to tolerating or advocating illegal copying: don’t forget that, besides end users, laws and technologies like the ones just mentioned would also hurt or lock out from the market many independent artists (including, in the future, your own son or nephew…) who don’t want to be submitted to big corporations.

Sure: one way to go is to only share material which is surely in the public domain or your own creative works, according to the current definition of “yours”: fully original stuff that you have created. The real solution, described at the end of this book, is to act for a reform of some laws that puts an end to these excesses. Until that happens, however, and also to accelerate it, it is much smarter to bypass and leave without arguments, as specified above, all the companies which damage both actual artists and their fans.

Should I really give up music, movies and so on?

Not at all, you just have to be smarter and not jump on what looks like the cooler and trendier bandwagon. It all depends on the license, that is, the legal limits the author of the creative work has put on its redistribution (within the limits of copyright law, of course!). Luckily there are already a lot of artists, as well as programmers, in many fields, who do not have to feed greedy intermediaries or can and want to share, in a more liberal way, the result of their work.

Many of those artists explicitly allow you to legally share and reuse for free their songs, text, movies or pictures, and their works can be easily found online thanks to special purpose search engines.

Remember: if you don’t support with your time and wallet only the authors who try to reach their audience with as few intermediaries as possible, the consequences may be pretty serious, and some of them would also be your fault.