Pablo and Goliath

Pablo Soto, the author of popular peer-to-peer file-sharing software, is being sued for LOTS by the recording industry. Their case is that he broke the law by facilitating distribution of copyright protected material. While I understand the reasons they’re going after him, I can’t understand how finding him guilty would be a good outcome.

The recording industry are just interested in shutting down the distribution of copyrighted material, which is easiest to do by closing off the channels through which it flows. Similarly, if we wanted no more gun fatalities we could just make it illegal to manufacture guns and detain people who buy complete AR-15 rifles. How that is an optimal outcome, though, is beyond me. P2P software is a very effective tool for distributing files and is increasingly used for legitimate purposes. Like weaponry we often hear about it when it’s being used illegally, but that’s a poor reason to prevent the creation of such useful tools.

A rule which makes inventors liable for any foreseeable illegal use of their creation seems likely to stifle their creative urges. At a time when R&D is being increasingly promoted by governments as a way of boosting productivity, creating a situation which penalises inventors seems counter-productive. Looking at file-sharing alone, it would be easy to condemn it as solely a way to distribute porn and illegal movies and music. However, when making a rule we must consider the effect on other industries, too. I struggle to see the positives from a ruling against Pablo for anyone but the recording industry.

2 replies
  1. Bill Bennett
    Bill Bennett says:

    By the same token makers of blank cassette tapes, blank cds and dvds are liable. So are computer makers and the companies who build the network hardware that runs the Internet. But then these companies all have scads of money and teams of corporate lawyers to fend off vexatious litigation.

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