This is an article from November, 2001 in the Duke Law Journal. The article is by Albert Z. Kovacs, and it questions the morality of the people who share copyrighted material. The author uses a psychological argument to condemn anyone who uses the internet to steal songs, and says something must be done to change people’s mindsets. He explains that in cyberspace, people’s identities are taken away. They are identified only by an IP address, and not by a name. They believe that no one can see their actions, and that no one can find out who they are. He says that this is called “depersonalization.” People want music to be free, and use file-sharing networks to get it, but this doesn’t make it morally right. The author blames people’s attitudes about file-sharing on internet discourse. For example, when someone downloads copyrighted material it is referred to as “sharing,” and not as theft. Because music is available through these networks, people’s views are changed to the point at which they believe stealing is ok. The proposed solution in this article is a display of power by the RIAA. Kovacs explains, “The wild horse must be broken before it can be trusted alone in its stable.” He means that people will stop stealing music once they are extremely scared of the consequences.
This article is very thought provoking and it made me reconsider my stance against the RIAA. I still think their lawsuits are arbitrary and unfair, but their intentions now seem to be legitimized. For example, I don’t feel guilty downloading copyrighted music, but I would never walk into a record store and steal a CD. Part of the reason many people are against the RIAA is because they want free music, but if we know what we are doing is morally wrong, why shouldn’t we be sued? If I were in the recording artists’ shoes, I would want to be fairly compensated for my work. This being said, even though I understand the RIAA’s intentions, I still think their actual lawsuits are not the best way to achieve their goals. They choose random people to sue for unfair amounts, and this seems like nothing more than a strategy to scare people. I think there is a better way to solve the problem, but I understand the RIAA’s frustration.