Should File Sharing Be Legalised?

The ongoing battle between AFACT and the Australian ISP iiNet through the so-called iiTrial has become a very public face of the file-sharing debate, particularly in Australia.

Is file-sharing “good”, or is it “bad”?

A very black and white question the answer to which, is generally quite grey.

I read with interest an article brought to my attention via Peter Black on Twitter in regards to an interesting position that has been taken by the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC):

“People have always shared music and always will. The music we share defines who we are, and who our friends and peers are. The importance of music in the fabric of our own culture, as well as those around the world, is inextricably bound to the experience of sharing.”

And they are right – people have always shared music.

From almost the day Edison invented the phonograph, people will have been able to share recorded music.

Who remembers recording music off the radio? Or putting two tape recorders in front of each other to play a cassette on one, and record onto a blank cassette on the other?

I remember the very first CD I ever bought – (and still have) – the 1989 Icehouse hits compilation Great Southern Land.

Thing is, I didn’t own a CD player back then, so the first thing I did was record it off the CD onto a cassette, using a CD player with a tape deck owned by my eldest sister.

It sounded almost as good as the CD, and if it wore out, all I had to do was record another copy. I could have recorded copies for my friends too, and shared them.

Nobody wanted to ban dual tape-decks and CD/tape-decks, or cassette players that could record off the radio. That opened up music sharing. The fact that it is predominantly done on the internet these days, doesn’t change “the crime” – just the method of delivery.

The SAC talk about making file-sharing legal, and then compensating the artists for it. How exactly that might be achieved is difficult to understand right now, but at least they are thinking a lot straighter than most of the copyright holders in this debate.

About bloody time.