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Peers, Pirates, and Persuasion: Rhetoric in the Peer-to-Peer Debates

by John Logie

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PEERS, PIRATES, AND PERSUASION: RHETORIC IN THE PEER-TO-PEER DEBATES investigates the role of rhetoric in shaping public perceptions about a novel technology: peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. While broadband Internet services now allow speedy transfers of complex media files, Americans face real uncertainty about whether peer-to-peer file sharing is or should be legal. John Logie analyzes the public arguments growing out of more than five years of debate sparked by the advent of Napster, the first widely adopted peer-to-peer technology. The debate continues with the second wave of peer-to-peer file transfer utilities like Limewire, KaZaA, and BitTorrent. With PEERS, PIRATES, AND PERSUASION, Logie joins the likes of Lawrence Lessig, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Jessica Litman, and James Boyle in the ongoing effort to challenge and change current copyright law so that it fulfills its purpose of fostering creativity and innovation while protecting the rights of artists in an attention economy. Logie examines metaphoric frames-warfare, theft, piracy, sharing, and hacking, for example-that dominate the peer-to-peer debates and demonstrably shape public policy on the use and exchange of digital media. PEERS, PIRATES, AND PERSUASION identifies the Napster case as a failed opportunity for a productive national discussion on intellectual property rights and responsibilities in digital environments. Logie closes by examining the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the "Grokster" case, in which leading peer-to-peer companies were found to be actively inducing copyright infringement. The Grokster case, Logie contends, has already produced the chilling effects that will stifle the innovative spirit at the heart of the Internet and networked communities. ABOUT THE AUTHOR John Logie is Associate Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Minnesota.… (more)

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PDF available on the publisher’s site. Logie discusses core concepts (sharing, stealing, piracy, etc.) around peer-to-peer and other forms of filesharing. Among his observations of note: the debaters have largely abandoned appeals to reason/logic because ethos (authority) and pathos (emotion) work better with the public. Napster faced a fundamental structural problem because its initial ethos “paralleled rock’s and hip-hop’s superficial rejection of authority and corporate politics,” but “this ethos left Napster with only limited opportunities to re-position itself as a legitimate business.” It couldn’t win without selling out. As Logie points out, that’s a pretty standard music narrative, but he notes that many performers fail to negotiate the transition, even if some do succeed. On piracy: once the copyright industries “had persuaded Americans that downloading was criminal, the logical next step was to ensure that it was perceived as violent crime.” On sharing: filesharing users don’t generally interact except through anonymous, automated file transfer. Logie suggests that this is because copies are nonrivalrous—I don’t have to give up mine to give you one for yourself. This, he suggests, strips negotiation and communication out of filesharing. It would have been very interesting if he’d also considered the various “darknets” that may preserve more human contact, even under pseudonyms, where users have to trust each other in order to escape copyright owners’ detection. ( )
  rivkat | Jun 12, 2012 |
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PEERS, PIRATES, AND PERSUASION: RHETORIC IN THE PEER-TO-PEER DEBATES investigates the role of rhetoric in shaping public perceptions about a novel technology: peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. While broadband Internet services now allow speedy transfers of complex media files, Americans face real uncertainty about whether peer-to-peer file sharing is or should be legal. John Logie analyzes the public arguments growing out of more than five years of debate sparked by the advent of Napster, the first widely adopted peer-to-peer technology. The debate continues with the second wave of peer-to-peer file transfer utilities like Limewire, KaZaA, and BitTorrent. With PEERS, PIRATES, AND PERSUASION, Logie joins the likes of Lawrence Lessig, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Jessica Litman, and James Boyle in the ongoing effort to challenge and change current copyright law so that it fulfills its purpose of fostering creativity and innovation while protecting the rights of artists in an attention economy. Logie examines metaphoric frames-warfare, theft, piracy, sharing, and hacking, for example-that dominate the peer-to-peer debates and demonstrably shape public policy on the use and exchange of digital media. PEERS, PIRATES, AND PERSUASION identifies the Napster case as a failed opportunity for a productive national discussion on intellectual property rights and responsibilities in digital environments. Logie closes by examining the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the "Grokster" case, in which leading peer-to-peer companies were found to be actively inducing copyright infringement. The Grokster case, Logie contends, has already produced the chilling effects that will stifle the innovative spirit at the heart of the Internet and networked communities. ABOUT THE AUTHOR John Logie is Associate Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Minnesota.

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