Scott Matthews responds to critics of his piece on file sharing, "Why Copying Isn't Cool."

By Salon Staff

Published September 19, 2003 7:30PM (EDT)

[Read the original story and the letters that responded to it.]

Let me try and clear up some confusion generated by my opinion piece published here on Salon last week. Perhaps it'll help to start with who I am and why I care.

I'm a coder, and for the last few years I've been working on software of my own design that I now sell. The same copyright laws that have been called into question by file-sharing and RIAA lawsuits also grant people like me with a "limited monopoly" to distribute their own work. Most all post-Napster file-sharing applications are perfectly happy to copy any type of file, not just music.

It also so happens that my software, Andromeda, is used to play music over the Web, and the same copyright law that protects my code also seems to say that I'm not allowed to let friends and family listen in on my music.

There are certainly good conversations to be had about the scope and role of copyright in our increasingly digital world, but they're getting buried by all the rhetoric.

Let's not forget that the EFF's traditional position on file-sharing is that we shouldn't blame the technology for how some may misuse it. To that end, they themselves have in the past suggested that the music industry should instead be directly suing infringers.

Now that the music industry is doing just that, they tip their hand: the real goal is a new system for compensating authors. But rather than win hearts and minds by focusing on the details of how a better system would actually work, they instead trade on negative sentiment for the RIAA and sidestep the free speech and privacy questions.

I'm disinclined to prefer an alternative that remains vaporware.

In the letters responding to my opinion piece, one writer suggests that our ISPs "monitor the actual files downloaded, and determine the most popular, etc., and forward that data to the appropriate monitoring body" another would prefer that we "abandon consumer privacy" altogether, and yet another concludes that "if your livelihood depends on copyright, it might be a good time to think about a new profession."

That just doesn't sound better to me.

My suggestion is simple: Rather than trusting in an alternative simply because "the RIAA sucks," get to know the details first and then decide.

-- Scott Matthews

Salon Staff

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