A copyright cold war? The polarized rhetoric of the peer-to-peer debates

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Participants in the United States' ongoing debates over peer-to-peer transfers of potentially copyrighted files have regularly trafficked in the rhetoric of warfare. While it is easy to understand how copyright holders would view peer-to-peer file transfers as a kind of attack, the rhetorical turn toward the discourse of military conflict has radiated throughout the debate. Individuals from across the spectrum of opinions on peer-to-peer file transfers both accept and reproduce the positioning of this public policy debate as a life-or-death struggle. The weaknesses of this comparison are illustrated through reference to the history of the Cold War, often cited as a model for the post-Napster period. Further, the relative immaturity of the peer-to-peer debate is demonstrated through reference to rhetorical analysis techniques suggested by stasis theory. This article concludes by suggesting ways in which the currently stalemated debate might be revitalized by principled interventions from scholars and concerned citizens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFirst Monday
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

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