In the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, large media, recording, film, and music organizations have hijacked the debate about file sharing, downloading, Internet broadcasting, and so-called intellectual property. Finally, someone with some serious clout (noted by Dan Gillmor) is refuting the specious arguments those organizations (including the musicians' union to which I somewhat reluctantly belong) make. He is Gary Shapiro, CEO and president of the Consumer Electronics Association, the group representing the multi-billion dollar electronics manufacturing industry. He said:
To make downloading immoral, you have to accept that copyrighted products are governed by the same moral and legal principles as real property. But the fact is that real and intellectual property are different and are governed by different principles. Downloading a copyrighted product does not diminish the product, as would be the case of taking and using tangible property such as a dress.
Real property can be owned forever. A copyright can be owned only for a limited period of time. Copyright law must [allow] people to use a copyrighted product without the permission of the copyright owner. This concern contributes to the statutory and judicial concept of "fair use."
Exactly right. Combined with economic arguments that file sharing actually benefits the music industry (contrary to the industry's claims) and the inevitable intellectual bankruptcy of the idea that making customers your enemies can be beneficial to a business, online file sharing of many types will eventually win. It's up to the copyright cartels to get their act together and see if they can benefit from it in some way, or get annihilated.