For university students, classroom life involves long lessons and intimate relationships with laptops, handouts and textbooks. The purpose of these tools is to help students read, discover and retain the intellectual property of other people through records of their findings, discoveries and creations.
Outside of the classroom, most students use the same level of public information to get their hands on other people’s intellectual property of a different sort. This version will not be found on a midterm exam or on a paper, but rather in earphones and on monitor screens. Obtaining music and movies for free online is about as easy, if not easier, as getting a peer-reviewed academic journal article. But certainly the student is not to be blamed. Students especially, who enjoy a special level of poverty, can put $15 to better use than buying the new Kings of Leon album (currently #1 on iTunes).
In Canada, copyright laws prevent people from obtaining copyrighted materials without legal purchase or consent from the original owner.
Students are allowed to use the intellectual property of others for an academic purpose. So how does that differ from using similar property for a recreational purpose? It doesn’t. In fact, downloading music can be less harmful than basic research. Students research all the time and read all the time and the amount of writing that is produced creates an interesting environment for true “ownership” of an idea.
In essence, the artist who created a song is no different from the philosopher who created an idea. Copyright laws in Canada must find a way to incorporate this reality into the laws. Obtaining entire libraries of music and movies without paying a cent should not be protected by law. However, casual file sharing should be more frowned upon than illegal. The University of Western Ontario has a filesharing system for the campus through which music and movies can be shared online amongst the student body free of charge. This type of “copyright infringement” should be seen as a productive way to share intellectual property. In a closed environment like a university campus, filesharing and the usage of intellectual property seems almost natural.
Anything is good in moderation. To those of you with entire libraries of downloaded music, you can be more supportive of the music industry.
However, as a person who has never downloaded a song in my life, I can say that the sharing of intellectual property has a place, not only on university campuses, but within a greater society as well. An effective compromise between creators, owners and consumers should be a goal for those concerned with copyright laws in Canada.