Yet More on File-Sharing: FvL’s Comment

In response to my previous post, Fred von Lohmann wrote the following:

“Derek — I think wide-open, unhindered file sharing is a great
thing. Any music fan who used Napster in 2000 will immediately
recognize the viceral truth of this statement. And I think we need to
emphasize the many virtues of fan-driven, wide-open file sharing. We
ought not abandon the fans and join the chorus telling them to hang
their heads in shame for building the greatest music library in the
history of the world.

The problem, of course, was the lack of compensation to artists and
owners. On this point, I agree with you — file-sharing without
compensation is not realistically sustainable, nor good in the long run
for those who care about music or the Internet. But recognizing that,
and working on a solution for that problem, is not the same thing as
saying that file-sharing is wrong. All the instincts that made file
sharing so successful are exactly the right instincts for a vibrant
creative, cultural and innovation environement.”

I’d like to unpack this in more depth later.  For now, just a brief response and some questions.

We do share the premise that  “file-sharing without
compensation is not realistically sustainable, nor good in the long run
for those who care about music or the Internet.” We also agree that we
should be working on figuring out how to match that activity with
compensation and that a scheme that does so would be an optimal result.

However, I disagree that recognizing that entails encouraging and
excusing file-sharing without compensation.  I’m not talking about
shaming people, but how can we simply ignore the harm that activity can
do if that’s our premise?  Sure, generally speaking, file-sharing
isn’t wrong; however, if file-sharing without compensation is harmful,
how do we not say that, at some level, it is wrong? 

Furthermore, how is doing so incompatible with supporting what is
great about file-sharing?  Can’t we disaggregate those benefits
and talk about how we might go about achieving those without at the
same time supporting widespread infringing file-sharing?