Donald Harris on copyright law and alcohol prohibition

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August 14, 2012 · 3 comments

Donald P. Harris, associate professor of law at Temple University discusses the regulation of file sharing. Harris explains that Alcohol Prohibition of the 1920s and 1930s as an historical example of laws that were inconsistent with the vast majority of society’s morals and norms. Looking back, one can see many similarities between the Alcohol and Filesharing Prohibitions. Harris suggests, then, that lessons learned from the failed “noble experiment” of Alcohol Prohibition should be applied to the current filesharing controversy. Doing so, he advocates legalizing certain noncommercial filesharing. A scheme along those lines would better comport with societal norms, he argues, and would force new business models to replace outdated and ineffective business models.



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  • DannyE

    Filesharing if forced out to the margins will create the same black market dynamics as Prohibition did.  It will create huge concentrations of wealth, an illegal structure to exploit that wealth, and negative impacts on the justice system with that wealth.   By now we should have learned that lesson, but NO!   Filesharing will live on no matter what the record companies or the movie companies do.  Paradoxically, studies how shown filesharing increases sales of both.  So they producers are killing their own sales.  

  • RecycledElectrons

    Let’s see how this compares.

    (1) I have literally stored pirated files in my boot’s top (bootlegging.)

    (2) Cops used to tear Grandpa’s Model A Ford apart looking for the whiskey (which was running the engine from the gas tank.) Copy have torn my speakers apart looking for an occasional

    (3) Grandpa ran from the cops in a Model A Ford when he was delivering beer. I’ve run from the cops in a Pontiac because I didn’t want them seizing my (many, many) burned discs.

    (4) Bar tenders take drinks away from people, and IT guys have stolen my USB drives.

    (5) The top bootleggers lived like kings, and so did Kim Dotcom.

    (6) Cops used disproportionate force to go after people having drinks. We all saw what the cops did to Kim Dotcom.

    (7) During prohibition, gangsters retalliated and killed cops, but there have been no assassinations of DOJ personnel, nor have there been bombings of MAFIAA stockholder meetings, nor have very many cops been shot for stealing people’s DVDs.

  • RecycledElectrons

     (8) The raids of speakeasys from The History Channel look amazingly like cops going after guys selling underground CDs and DVDs at flea markets, and outside dollar stores. Of course, those are not pirated, they just disagree with the cops’ politics.