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September 30, 2003

An eloquent alternative to Mr. DeLong [7:09 pm]

From the testimony of Jonathan D. Moreno

These factors do not justify theft, but file-sharing is not simply an attack on the concept of private property. It is a demand for access to a highly valued social commodity, a demand triggered and facilitated by technology. A new interpretation of the social contract is emerging, and industry and the law must take note.

If file-sharing is the wave of the future, as many believe it is, then adversarial approaches should not be the first, and certainly not the only response. Though aggressive prosecution may result in a short-term deterrent, in the long run it cannot stem the cultural tide.

In the short run, the industry should expand its effort to acquaint us with its moral strangers, the hard working men and women behind the scenes. Taking a longer view, the music industry must adapt its business model to the new culture. It must explore measures to renew consumers’ sense that they are being dealt with fairly. Devising alternative pricing structures through the Web, developing technologies that allow for appropriate personal use, and building more value into the product are among the constructive approaches that should be at least as aggressively pursued as legal remedies.

In their wisdom, the framers of the constitution specified that inventors should have rights over their products “for limited times.” They were concerned to balance the right to property with the need for civil society to flourish through the vibrant exchange of ideas. Artistic media are especially important for social flourishing because they create the common coin of human experience. In this field, civil society itself is changing, and the music industry must change with it. Measures to protect the legitimate interests of artists and the industry should be as creatively and sensitively crafted as the artistry itself.

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