Essay: Illegal File Sharing

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The issue of illegal file sharing is complicated. Many different issues come into play. One that has not received a lot of attention is with regards to the prosecution of offenders. Thus far, the task of enforcing intellectual property rights that have been violated as a result of illegal file sharing has been left to the victims. The government has not enforced the existing laws, preferring that the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) sue file sharers in civil courts. The association has been forced to sue these individuals at a rate of approximately 400 per month (Lake, 2004). What does not make sense is why this task has been left to the industry to deal with. Yes, the industry is losing money because of illegal file sharing. Major record labels shed some 5000 jobs between 2000 and 2006 because of illegal file sharing. Album sales have completely collapsed. Investment in new artist development has dwindled. The industry has been forced to take this action in civil courts to recoup some of the damages it has suffered. They should not have to do this on their own. The government should prosecute individuals who engage in illegal file sharing.

But in truth, it should not fall to the industry to enforce the laws of the land. We need to be clear about the nature of illegal file sharing. It is against the law for a reason. We have developed a system of intellectual property rights because we, as a people, believe that a person's creative output has value and that this value should be protected. In fact, intellectual property rights are considered a foundation upon which a proper market economy can grow. If those rights do not exist, individuals and companies will be less likely to invest. To encourage investment, we need to protect intellectual property - patents, trademarks, written works and works of art. This is why we have laws protecting intellectual property. When a person creates something, it is their property. They alone have the right to market it and make money from it. What illegal file sharing does is it takes that right away from the creator.

Ordinarily, if one party takes something from another party, it is considered theft. This ties back to the very definition of the word 'property'. Files of all type - songs, movies, images, programs - these are all forms of intellectual property. What is sometimes forgotten in this discussion is that the intent of the law is that all property is subject to protection. Yet, intellectual property is not afforded the same protections. If somebody comes into your house and steals your stereo, they are subject to criminal prosecution. The police would never tell you to deal with it yourself in civil court. Yet, that is exactly what is happening with illegal file sharing. Musicians, programmers, moviemakers - all of them are being told that they must deal with the theft of their property on their own. This is just plain wrong. All property should be given equal rights under the law. The theft of intellectual property therefore is not an issue for civil courts, but for criminal courts.

Everybody understands that the government plays certain roles in society. One of those roles is to codify and enforce the system of law. That principle is so fundamental to our definition of government that even libertarians agree with it. With illegal file sharing, we have a situation where the government has written a code of law and then chosen not to enforce it. This goes against the very purpose of government's existence. It is not the role of government to pick and choose which of its laws it will enforce this week. It is the role of government to enforce all of its laws. Therefore, the government should be the body that prosecutes those individuals who engage in illegal file sharing.

Thus far I have written about the deontological rationale for government prosecution of individuals involved in illegal file sharing. File sharing is wrong because it is illegal; therefore the government should accept its responsibility to enforce the law. If… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Illegal File Sharing.  (2008, November 19).  Retrieved October 16, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Illegal File Sharing."  19 November 2008.  Web.  16 October 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Illegal File Sharing."  November 19, 2008.  Accessed October 16, 2019.