Hollywood, the music industry, select policy-makers and now the Justice Department have adopted a new "copyspeak" that equates the downloading of files from the Internet with "piracy," "stealing" and "shoplifting."
The pervasive theme of copyspeak is that downloading from the Internet is both illegal and immoral. It is neither. No doubt this era's rapid shift to digital technology is changing the rules of the game -- there is little doubt that some use the benefits of technology to make and distribute unauthorised copies for personal financial gain in clear violation of copyright law.
But we've been down the road of technological advancement before. How we resolve this latest tension between copyright and technology will define our future ability to communicate, create and share information, education and entertainment. Indeed, if the play button becomes the pay button, our very ability to raise the world's standard of living and education will be jeopardised.
With each new technology, the fears of the music and motion picture industries have grown. Television and the VCR allegedly marked the end of movies. CDs and cassettes would cause harm from real-time transfers and one-at-a-time copies. Today's technologies make these fears seem almost quaint.
The growth of reproduction, storage and transmission technology has terrified copyright owners -- most notably the music and motion picture industries. With high-speed connectivity and the Internet, the perceived copyright theft is not buying a CD and making a copy for a friend; it's downloading from a stranger or making available thousands of copies with the touch of a keystroke.
Based on these and similar threats the content community has gone on a scorched earth campaign -- attacking new recording and peer-to-peer technologies -- using the Congress, media and courts to challenge recording in the digital age.
As an industry that recognises the legitimate concerns of copyright owners that exist in a digital world, consumer-electronics companies have been working for years with both the recording and motion picture industries on developing technological measures that meet the needs of both industries by protecting content at the source.