Rip, Mix, Burn: The politics of peer to peer and copyright law (originally published in August 2002)

  • Kathy Bowrey
  • Matthew Rimmer


This paper is included in the First Monday Special Issue: Music and the Internet, published in July 2005. Special Issue editor David Beer asked authors to submit additional comments regarding their articles. Since this paper was first published in 2002 there has been a constant stream of litigation surrounding P2P in the US and in other jurisdictions. In the United States, the District Court and the Court of Appeals controversially held that Grokster was not liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. Justice Thomas of the Federal Circuit observed: "We live in a quicksilver technological environment with courts ill-suited to fix the flow of internet innovation." The United States Supreme Court is due to hear an appeal by copyright owners against the Grokster decision in 2005. In Australia, litigation was initiated against Sharman License Holdings, LEF Interactive and Brilliant Digital Entertainment, as the controllers of the peer to peer network Kazaa. Again, media owners have emphasized that the network is a pirate bazaar. Global legal forum shopping is one of the intriguing aspects of P2P. We see the arguments of both sides, originally developed specifically for US deliberation manifest across the globe. The Media naively ask whether there is any point in the Australian court considering these issues, given the litigation ongoing in the US. Here the US is seen as the world leader for legal ideas surrounding P2P, with the currency in ideas about technology, innovation and growing the global information economy clouding appreciation of national sovereignty and the distinctiveness of local jurisprudence. This context makes an appreciation of the cultural uniqueness of the US views all the more important. Rip, Mix, Burn: The Politics of Peer to Peer and Copyright Law by Kathy Bowrey and Matthew Rimmer Whereas Lessig's recent work engages with questions of culture and creativity in society, this paper looks at the role of culture and creativity in the law. The paper evaluates the Napster, DeCSS, Felten and Sklyarov litigation in terms of the new social, legal, economic and cultural relations being produced. This involves a deep discussion of law's economic relations, and the implications of this for litigation strategy. The paper concludes with a critique of recent attempts to define copyright law in terms of first amendment rights and communicative freedom.
How to Cite
Bowrey, K., & Rimmer, M. (2005). Rip, Mix, Burn: The politics of peer to peer and copyright law (originally published in August 2002). First Monday.