File Sharing, Copyright and Freedom of Expression

November 2011


By Dr Enrico Bonadio, City Law School, City University London

The article explores the relationship between copyright and freedom of speech in the Internet environment. After highlighting the constitutional dimension of these conflicting rights, the phenomenon of file sharing and the role of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the author analyzes the debate surrounding a particular sanction used in certain jurisdictions to punish unauthorized on line sharing of copyrighted material, i.e. the disconnection of Internet access. The increasingly important role played by private agreements between copyright holders and ISPs is also highlighted.

A set of proposals aiming at identifying possible areas of freedom for unauthorized file sharers are then analyzed.

In particular, the author believes that file sharing technologies may boost the exchange of information, opinions and ideas amongst Internet users and foster a number of values underpinning the very protection of free speech. It is for this reason – the author argues – that copyright rules might be relaxed when it comes to file sharing technologies, e.g. by transforming copyright from a “proprietary” to a “compensation” right.

European Intellectual Property Review, Vol. 33, No. 10, 2011

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