A bunch of folks have sent in this column by freelance writer Anne Wollenberg claiming that there is no defense for file sharing
and that free riders and freeloaders are simply bad, stop, end sentence. Oddly, looking over Ms. Wollenberg's own website, we find links to many of her works
, including PDF files and jpg image files of writeups done for publications that don't have those writeups on the web. Some of those appear to be written up in magazines that require a subscription or a newsstand fee to view normally. Now perhaps she has permission to post these (or perhaps not), but even if she does, it certainly seems that she sees the value in having her works shared freely for the promotional value of her ability to write (not particularly well, mind you, but that's a separate issue). Yet, oddly, her writeup seems to ignore the concept of promotional value of works shared freely online. Update
: In the comments, Ms. Wollenberg was kind enough to let us know that she has permission for all of those works on her website. That's great, even though we made it clear in the post that even if she does (in fact, we assumed she did), it does not change the fact that it negates much of the point she tried to make with her column.
Instead, she tries to lump all who file share into a single camp of people who are pure freeloaders. Of course, she even gets the basics of freeloading wrong, focusing on the sociological issues, but ignoring the economic research on freeloading and the value of commons and sharing. That's doubly odd considering that our recent Nobel Prize winning economist won that prize for her groundbreaking work showing that the simplistic thinking on "sharing" and "commons" simply isn't accurate
, and that communities will quite frequently create models where sharing is seen as beneficial and other structures make sure that fair compensation occurs.
Now, I'm not one who believes that people should be sharing the files of those who don't allow it (and I don't participate in any unauthorized file sharing myself), but to write off the entire community as "freeloaders" without understanding what's actually happening and without actually understanding the economic research on freeloading seems like a pretty weak argument.