Can you tell that I just added Freedom to Tinker back into my RSS reader? This post about how quickly digital copies of the newest Harry Potter book made it on to the Internet in text and audio — despite or possibly because of J.K. Rowling’s decision not to release the book in ebook format — says some important things about the relationship between distributing information digitally and copyright infringement. Different types of people can think the phrase “downloading music” means buying it, illegally sharing it, exercising your fair use rights, or possibly even making use of the lovely public domain.
Since there have been copying technologies, people have been making copies and sharing information. I’m not saying that this makes any and all sorts of information reproduction right as rain, but it does help to keep a cool head about these issues and remember that the Internet didn’t create copyright infringment, it only made it simpler. The simplification of copyright infringment through information reproduction has made the media campaign to dissuade people from even trying that much more aggressive, and made the lobbyists try that much harder to make even tighter legislation to outlaw it. And, as librarians who like to share as much as we’re legally able, this is a pickle indeed.