In one of my classes today we were discussing the demise of the author and the internet was drawing heavy flak. In modern literary theory the work has become more important that the author who wrote the work, and such ideas are being reflected in all of society, and especially the internet. In business collaboration is encouraged, making it impossible to give individual credit. On the internet personal property is becoming more and more public as ideas are “borrowed” and many people fear out right robbery. Being a web page editor I felt obliged to defend the internet. After all, it’s not the internet’s fault that people are crooked.
Of course the whole discussion wasn’t simply an attack on the internet. But what I did come away with is an understanding of how the internet has changed our ability to break the law. If someone is going to steal copyrighted work, they’re going to steal copyrighted work. In the pre-internet days that meant photocopying a magazine article or simply retyping it yourself, or making a cassette of your friend’s record, tape, or CD. Now with the internet we have massive information deliverable instantaneously. Hence it’s easy to steal written work, and more usefully, recorded songs. Look at the proliferation of mp3’s and the fuss it has every major recording company in. Trading songs without buying the CD isn’t anything new. Bootleg tapes have been around since tapes were invented. Mp3’s have just enabled people to get the exact songs they want faster, easier, and cheaper. The internet hasn’t brought about any new disrespect for personal work, it has simply allowed that disregard for the author to magnify itself.
People complain about the internet being such a threat to copyrights and an individual’s work. But we’re not dealing with anything new. We’re dealing with plain and simple human ethics, the same thing we’ve been dealing with since the apple.