There's been plenty of coverage of Clay Shirky's recent talk at SXSW where, among other things, he discussed the impact of Napster
on our culture. As per usual with Shirky, he made a bunch of fantastic points, often presenting a perspective that is unique and makes you think. I just wanted to pick up on one point, however, because I've been hearing the following argument a lot lately: file sharing needs to be "stopped" because this widespread "illegality" is teaching kids to not have respect for the rule of law. Even Larry Lessig has been known to make this point. Yet, Shirky quickly debunks it in his talk:
In the Napster era, some attributed the ascent of pirated digital music to a supposedly criminal-minded nature among American youth. The argument didn't work. "It coincided with the largest fall in the rate of crime in recorded history," Shirky said.
People aren't file sharing because they don't respect the rule of law
. They're file sharing because that particular law doesn't make any sense to them
. The idea that people jumping on the file sharing bandwagon will start breaking other laws appears to have no empirical backing whatsoever.