Topics in Emerging Media and Communications

Share and Share Alike

with 5 comments

My dad introduced me to the prospect of music sharing via the internet. Growing up, we didn’t have such things as cable TV, a dishwasher, or electric heat, but we did have a Micron computer with dial-up internet access. Dad had accounts for Napster and Kazzaa and was constantly downloading his precious blues and jazz albums.

I never thought that what he was doing was illegal, he was a lawyer after all, and he downloaded music from others but uploaded his own rare albums to share. What drove me and my brother nuts was that his downloading and uploading took all of the bandwidth, causing our computer to clunk along as we tried to play Sim City 3000.

I too joined the underground opium den of downloading music and movies, but I waited until college where I had a faster connection speed. But I didn’t just download from torrent sites. I began uploading my own photographs on Flickr, I wrote my brilliant musings on a blog, I joined message boards for help with my classes, and had my very own Myspace page where I shared my hopes, dreams, and favorite memes with the whole world.

This was all sharing. Sharing of ideas, information, and art most of it legal, but some of it was considered illegal because of intellectual property laws. It was shocking to me to read Information Feudalism and understand how the production and protection of intellectual property consumes our society, always ticking away in the background while average citizens are completely oblivious.

To pick one topic to rail against the machine, The Man, of the knowledge game is impossible, it all just makes me furious. Our basic human rights are being haggled over and manipulated by multinational companies who use modern cartels and monopolies to control the system while the people are completely blind and powerless to stop it.

But are we?

We are not powerless. the authors of Information Feudalism suggest that a negotiating process of democratic bargaining will ease the tension between intellectual property importers and exporters.

“First, all relevant interests have to be represented in the negotiating process (the condition of representation)…Second, all those involved in the negotiation must have full information about the consequences of various possible outcomes (the condition of full information). Third, one party must not coerce the others (the condition of nondomination) (Darhos 14).”

Darhos later adds a fourth condition of deliberation, these conditions seem plausible only on larger scale negotiations between countries, but never fear individual, you also have power to wield.

The internet.

The internet is (mostly) free, shared knowledge. It is uncontrollable, unreachable by the hands of patent lawyers and CEO’s. The more corporations or governments try to control the flow of that knowledge, the more elaborate and creative ways will be created to go around those protocols.  The internet allows individuals to share, collaborate and create without limits, and if you don’t like something, you can unplug from the network. Our generation has grown up understanding and use the power every day. It shapes the way we see ourselves and the world, and no amount of lawsuits, lobbying, or threatening letters from my internet provider will change that.


Written by HiuHiMedia

October 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I too was sick with anger when I read that it was a few business men who negotiated the TRIPS agree with most of the world back in the late ’90s. what right did this minority have making these decisions for so many people? They didn’t ask and I guess the point of that chapter was they didn’t have to ask. It’s really sad to learn that most of the big companies in America are doing business just on the ethical side of the line that defines ethical practices. But I would call pressuring another country into follow your patent laws ethical. So many people know there needs to be change and Drahos and Braithwaite have a really good idea but how do we get this implemented? How do we in fact change?


    October 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm

  2. Oh, Kazaa..what memories. I like how you made a connection between multiple types of sharing. I suppose there is an assumption that if you post your photos to Flickr, it’s not a problem because it is “yours.” However, to download a share something that is “theirs” is wrong. We have a very large sense of ownership and entitlement. Not saying it’s 100% wrong or right, but it’s interesting how we kind of arbitrarily draw a line. Nice post.


    Brianni Nelson

    October 20, 2010 at 11:30 pm

  3. The internet is indeed one tool in our arsenal. And while I think we need to employ tactics to undermine these unfair systems, I also think we need to be wary of the potential outcomes for the individual. While large corporations cannot stop file sharing my the many, they can (and have) certainly prosecute the individual. Do we play the odds, aware of the potential consequences? Or do we apply alternative tactics?


    October 21, 2010 at 3:29 pm

  4. My dad opened my eyes to Napster too! And yes, it slowed the computer down a lot and took forever to download a song, but at the time it felt worth it. I agree that file sharing and “pirating” won’t go away and people will just come up with new and different ways to beat “The Man” and get files.


    November 7, 2010 at 6:59 am

  5. I think it is interesting that your Dad, being a lawyer, downloaded music. I think the difference between some people and your Dad is that he most likely new he was sharing music and decided to upload content as well. The problem with a lot of younger people as you mentioned about yourself is that they don’t know exactly what they are doing, however illegal or legal it may be.

    Alan H. Rose

    November 28, 2010 at 8:13 pm

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