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Fight for your Right to Fileshare

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Current copyright law has only one answer to p2p filesharers: sue them. A much better model not only for users but for authors as well, is to permit what can‘t be prevented anyway, and in turn collect a flat levy on Internet access. Thus, the Content Flatrate achieves compensation for creators without control of users. The digital revolution brought the universal means of production and distribution of informational goods into the hands of virtually everyone. The new mode of production is commons-based peer production (Yochai Benkler), e.g. GNU/Linux or wikipedia. Open collaboration is based on freedoms expressed by authors in the license they chose (GPL, CC, etc.). These free licenses leave out the issue of remuneration. And they have no effect on proprietary works. But the digital revolution does. Filesharing makes it evident that transporting bits from A to B is not a value proposition to base a business model on. The scarcity that old media managed is gone for good. Information becomes a public good. The middlemen are cut out. So the middlemen strike back. Their counter-revolution is made of DRM technology and extended criminal and civil sanctions. Even if these strategies are futile, with no measurable deterring effect on p2p use, they do cause a lot of harm to those affected, and to the digital media environment itself. The solution is a general license granted by law, permitting filesharing of copyrighted works and subjecting it to a levy. This is distributed to creatives organized in collecting societies proportionally to the measured use of their works. This model is favoured by an increasing number of scholars from law and economics and of practitioners in creation and media. A number of issues still need to be resolved, e.g. concerning categories of works covered, gaming-proof measuring, and membership and organization of the collecting society. The devil is in the details, as usually, but the overall goal is clear: stopping mass-criminalization of filesharers; providing an alternative compensation system to DRM; balancing private appropriation with the clear welfare-economic advantages of free circulation of works by directly linking two collectives, that of creators and that of users. But then again, when the Content Flatrate becomes a real-world project, the vested powers will get involved. Maybe some of the old ones will go down, only to be replaced by new powers. Gema might start to like the idea and take it over. The Content Flatrate could be just another social-democratic strategy of appeasement by helping to take some of the edges off an escalating social conflict, of attempting to repair some evident disfunctionalities of a copyright system that is rotten to the core, and cannot be fixed, only overthrown. If enough people, not thousands but tens of thousands are suffering from the backlash and our digital landscape is full of barbed wire, then filesharers will rise and storm the headquarters of the copyright industry and abolish copyright slavery. So should we instead work towards a full-scale confrontation between filesharers and copyright industry?

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