Why Do 'Good People' Disregard Copyright on the Internet?
Christophe Geiger (ed.), Criminal Enforcement of Intellectual Property: A Handbook of Contemporary Research, Edward Elgar Publishing Cheltenham/Northampton, 2012, 151-167
20 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2010 Last revised: 10 Feb 2016
Date Written: August 17, 2010
File sharing is copyright infringement. In many jurisdictions, it is moreover a criminal offense. In Germany, right holders instituted thousands of criminal proceedings in a move to fight private file sharing on the internet. Although this campaign raised awareness of the illegality of file sharing, the use of peer-to-peer networks remains a consistent mass phenomenon, being performed every day by millions of people. Most of these users would never think of stealing books, CDs or DVDs from a store.
The paper deals with the question why all these “good people” disregard copyright on the internet. First, it describes that file sharing has been a contentious topic in the course of recent amendments of German copyright law and that the position of German law in that respect is not as straightforward as the rhetoric of “piracy” insinuates. Second, the article discusses a number of reasons for copyright ignorance on the internet, in particular the attractions of digital network technologies and strategies of moral disengagement. Finally, it analyzes fundamental differences between the structure and effect of exclusive rights in tangibles and exclusive rights in intangibles to explain the different attitudes towards these two types of property rights.
Keywords: copyright, file sharing, criminal enforcement, criminal law, German law, peer-to-peer networks, tangibles, intangibles, statistics
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