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  Overview Chapter Summaries Context Invention Teaching Ideas Extending this Work & Conclusion

Peers, Pirates, and Persuasion: Rhetoric in the Peer-to-Peer Debates


John Logie begins the book by discussing his professional visit to the Ukraine, in particular a stop at Kiev’s city center, where counterfeit music discs were sold in a subway. Here, a “brand” of disc was displayed containing every recording (including entire records) of a certain performer, and sold for about $10.00 but included over $250.00 worth of music if bought separately through legal channels. The author purchases three of these discs himself, as he cannot imagine such format being available in the US since “there is no real incentive for the industry to shift from this [single CD] distribution model other than the clear threat posed by rampant downloading of music via the internet” (p. 11). But his Ukraine experience provides a thought-provoking model different than that of US copyright law. US copyright law encourages production and distribution of the single CD, now even the single song, unlike the Ukraine model where a consumer can purchase an artists' entire work on a set of discs, and at a cheap price. The difference between these models is one of access (price) and convenience (a single set of discs).

Logie's introduction also provides a scenario of a real life conversation the author’s experienced with students, slightly fictionalized, where the student in a distance learning setting wished to view a movie as part of the class materials, but could not do so without either buying the movie, or going to the library and viewing the movie – due to restrictions of the TEACH Act. The TEACH Act does not serve our purposes, argues Logie, and we should therefore keep informed of legal events in order to make the kind of policy and arguments needed to preserve learning. Understanding the “language used to shape these policies” (p. 20) will help the field develop new policies that better serve our purposes.

In Chapter 2, Logie unpacks peer-to-peer metaphors of criminalization. Here he defines and differentiates “hackers” and “crackers,” tracing how these concepts have transformed along with cultural shifts. In the next two Chapters (3 and 4) he examines rhetorical positioning of file transfers as “theft” and “piracy.” Notably, an individual who wishes to read the book will not need to commit an act of “theft,” since one aspect of this book's inventional nature is that it is licensed by Parlor Press under a Creative Commons NoDerivs 2.5 license, and a digital PDF can be downloaded free from the website ( Under this particular Creative Commons license readers are free to share, copy, and transmit the work as long as they credit the author, do not use for “commercial purposes,” i.e. sell for money, and do not alter, transform, or build on the work. However, Creative Commons licenses do not impair one’s normal fair use rights, rights that Logie cleverly brings to the forefront of the reader’s mind in the Appendix. As the author points out in Chapter 5, the term “sharing” as a place of rhetorical positioning is problematic. Drawing on Lawrence Lessig’s work, the author compares pre and post-digital age sharing. Sharing in the pre-digital world largely meant that the shared item was depleted, at least momentarily. Logie writes, "If I agree to share my car or my laptop with someone, I understand that there will be times that I will not have access to those resources. But if I share an idea, we both have the idea. And if I 'share' an MP3 file by serving it to others via a peer-to-peer network, my resource is never depleted"(p.85). He thus illustrates how confused the concept of “sharing” is due to the affordances of digital environments.

Logie uses the extended example of Lorraine Sullivan, a Kazaa user involved in the first RIAA lawsuits. She felt duped by Kazaa, evidenced in her Congressional Statement. In this statement, Sullivan describes how she thought that since Kazaa was still up and running after Napster was shut down, the Kazaa service must be legal. She notes that she never saw a disclaimer on Kazaa's website, nor did she fully understand that as she downloaded music, a Kazaa file was created on her computer and made available to other users in the network. These terms of use were not explicitly disclosed by the filesharing service. Logie provides further examples in Chapter 5 that show how Kazaa mischaracterized “sharing”; the service stated that “Sharing is making your content available to other peer-to-peer users” (p. 96). But Kazaa failed to define “your content” with the actual, in-use definition, one that included sharing files on the user’s computer without the user's explicit consent or awareness. In other words, “sharing” as we might normally understand it as a conscious act of community was not taking place via Kazaa. Instead, this kind of sharing was done due to the default settings of the software which a user was likely unaware. This resulted in a strange kind of forced sharing – not sharing at all.

In Chapter 6, Logie notes how Napster metaphors extended “hacking” to include filesharing, and led to characterizations of “theft,” which subsequently turned into theft as “piracy” – notably “pillaging [of] the music and film industries” (p. 105). Finally, due in part to Jack Valenti’s colorful language, filesharing is represented as an element of war or “combat.” Positioning himself with legal scholars Lawrence Lessig, Siva Vaidhyanathan, and Jessica Litman, Logie ends the book by calling for a change in copyright law that would account for “torrents of information now spanning the global via broadband peer-to-peer networks” rather than simple “print” texts (p. 146). I think his request is reasonable, especially in light of the fact that a colleague emailed me this week, wanting to know how "Web 3.0" and ensuing images of global dataclouds, will impact both U.S. and international copyright law. We are just coming to terms with and unpacking the impact of Web 2.0 on our pedagogy and research, and already scholarly voices are asking how the next phase will influence our practices and the production of knowledge.