If file-sharing is piracy, what about aggregators?
Pirates can be lovable rogues like Johnny Depp.Skip to next paragraph
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They can also be revered forebearers with a past. Andrew Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller ran roughshod over opponents back in their day, but their booty now funds libraries, PBS, and hundreds of noble causes.
And then there are the pirates who are much closer to home. Pirate Bay, BitTorrent, YouTube, and most of the peer-to-peer sites on the Web have probably tempted your coworkers, friends, family -- perhaps even you -- with a little intellectual property piracy.
The Age of the Pirate
So what should we make of aggregators?
Topix, Newsvine, and Google all serve as aggregators of news stories from the world's press organizations. Aggregation seems like fair use, although there is plenty of controversy about it. Google has kept its nose clean so far by not selling ads against its Google News aggregation pages. Not so with Topix or Newsvine.
But like Pirate Bay, those aggregation services act as a highway on which any kind of information transaction -- legal or otherwise -- can occur. YouTube doesn't verify if a video is pirated or not. It just allows you to post it. It's not the publisher, you see, it's the neutral shell for millions of self-publishers, whether they are original or not, creators or counterfeiters.
The P-to-P dilemma
So when little Johnny shows his Internet prowess by accessing a file-sharing service to get a copy of the "X-men" prequel -- well, kids will be kids. Besides, it's the Internet. Everything's free on the Internet.