In fact, for many people, that shift has already come. Like file-sharing — which 60 million Americans have tried — cutting and pasting from the Internet is just one part of a broader shift toward all copying, all the time.
[...] On a recent morning on Canal Street, crowds of shoppers, most past their undergraduate years, brought the metaphor to life, plucking up fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Kate Spade handbags. A New Jersey woman named Linda Dorian, plumping for two bootleg Vuittons, compared her purchases to downloading music. “Somehow everybody seems to be making out,” she said. “I don’t see any poor rock stars. I don’t see any poor designers.”
Besides, she added, buying the fake is cooler, just as Grokster, a file-sharing program, has a cachet the Wal-Mart CD counter cannot match. “Shopping for copies is getting to be a trend,” she said.
As technology has produced a new ecology of copying, it has pushed into uncharted territories of ethics and the law, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity” and director of communication studies at New York University. He said he has had 10 percent of his students turn in whole papers copied from the Internet, not realizing that he could Google them into big trouble. “We’re coming up on 10 years of widespread use of the Internet,” he said. “We should have better discussions of a code of ethics for dealing with these materials. The rule of law will always incompletely and perhaps negatively affect the Internet.”
[...] As their favorite musicians recombine digital samples to create new music, downloaders recombine digital songs in new contexts.
“I don’t think they think of it as copying music,” said Joe Levy, deputy managing editor of Rolling Stone. “It’s a very individual experience for them. They want the songs they want in the order they want. Then it becomes not the new Mary J. Blige album, but their own mix. It’s a much more individual package of music. Kids view it as an interactive and creative act.”
[...] A study by Forrester Research found that 68 percent of burners said they would stop if they thought they might get in serious trouble. As in sampling, the moral questions should follow the financial ones, said Josh Bernoff, the principal analyst covering media and entertainment at Forrester.
But the process still had some hurdles to get over, Mr. Bernoff admitted. Recently he was discussing his research with an executive at a media organization that has been very aggressive about trying to discourage file-sharing. When Mr. Bernoff asked the executive how he had gotten the report, which Forrester sells for $895, the man hesitated.
“They got a copy from one of the studios,” Mr. Bernoff said. “Here is an organization that’s saying that stealing hurts the little people, and they took our intellectual property and they shuttled it around like a text file.”