Roger Shiner: Digital Property Rights and the Law.

Downloading is rife, and content creators have lobbied heavily that this violates copyright rights and should be criminalized. But downloading is not a public wrong. A “public wrong” is one that requires a public response because the wrong harms not only the vicim but all of us. But property wrongs are not so clearly violates society as a whole. Downloading does not exclude the owner from using or selling his property. Property that is legally defensible typically possess ontological continuity.

Copyright protects owners against unauthorized use of their intellectual property. This is based on utilitarian grounds – society’s desire to extract wellbeing from creativity. Downloading doesn’t affect the original; only a copy. US courts have held that streamed bits of movies stored in RAM are in fact copies. the conclusion is that criminal law should not be used to prosecute downloaders.

There are obvious hard questions raised here about, for example, the appropriation of intellectual rights via the production of knock-off goods, which have more ontological stability.


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