Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Ethical issues surrounding Gnutella

Author:Jacob Levy
Posted:4/11/2000; 5:55:35 PM
Topic:Ethical issues surrounding Gnutella
Msg #:16097
Prev/Next:16095 / 16098

I stayed away from discussing ethical and political issues in my previous post about Gnutella. Sorry, couldn't resist, so here goes:

So what do people that played with Gnutella think? It's really nothing new, Napster and friends came before it and did essentially the same, except that it is orders of magnitude easier.

I don't know enough about the copyright and property ownsership laws to answer the following questions authoritatively:

Do you violate the owner's copyright by making a copyrighted file available for sharing through Gnutella? My gut feeling is "yes". Note that Gnutella forces you to make an explicit choice to share a file, by asking you to choose the location on your HD where said file to be shared is located.

If noone downloaded a copyrighted file that you offer to share through Gnutella, did you still violate the copyright? Not sure about that one. My gut feeling says the act of sharing is what matters, not whether or not someone downloaded the materials.

Do you violate the owner's copyright by downloading a copyrighted file found on a Gnutella server? Again, my gut feeling is "yes". As with sharing, this is an explicit act on your part.

By helping someone find copyrighted material on another person's computer, are you aiding and abetting in a crime? This one seems questionable because you have no influence over the actions of the person who found (with your help) the copyrighted material. They decide on their own volition to go download the copyrighted material. It feels to me like saying to Joe "look, Marge owns a nice Mercedes" and then Joe goes and steals Marge's car.


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