Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality

David Pogue at the NYT has been finding out that what he thought was obvious in the context of illegal file sharing has failed to bridge the generational gap.

"“I borrow a CD from the library. Who thinks that’s wrong?” (No hands go up.)

“I own a certain CD, but it got scratched. So I borrow the same CD from the library and rip it to my computer.” (A couple of hands.)

“I have 2,000 vinyl records. So I borrow some of the same albums on CD from the library and rip those.”

“I buy a DVD. But I’m worried about its longevity; I have a three-year-old. So I make a safety copy.”


“I record a movie off of HBO using my DVD burner. Who thinks that’s wrong?” (No hands go up. Of course not; time-shifting is not only morally O.K., it’s actually legal.)

“I *meant* to record an HBO movie, but my recorder malfunctioned. But my buddy recorded it. Can I copy his DVD?” (A few hands.)

“I meant to record an HBO movie, but my recorder malfunctioned and I don’t have a buddy who recorded it. So I rent the movie from Blockbuster and copy that.” (More hands.)

And so on...

The exercise is intended, of course, to illustrate how many shades of wrongness there are, and how many different opinions. Almost always, there’s a lot of murmuring, raised eyebrows and chuckling.

Recently, however, I spoke at a college. It was the first time I’d ever addressed an audience of 100 percent young people. And the demonstration bombed."

No comments: