Imagining the Internet Project

  Responses in reaction to the following statement were assembled from a select group of 1,286 Internet stakeholders in the fall 2004 Pew Internet & American Life Predictions Survey. The survey allowed respondents to select from the choices "agree," "disagree" or "I challenge" the predictive statement. Some respondents chose to expand on their answer, writing an explanation of their position; many did not. Some respondents chose to identify themselves with each answer; many did not. We share some - not all - of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below are attributed here only for the purpose of indicating a level of internet expertise; the statements reflect personal viewpoints and do not represent their companies' or government agencies' policies or positions. Some answers have been edited in order to share more respondents' replies. Below is a selection of the many carefully considered responses to the following statement.

Prediction on digital products
In 2014, it will still be the case that the vast majority of internet users will easily be able to copy and distribute digital products freely through anonymous peer-to-peer networks.

Compiled reactions from the 1,286 respondents:
  50% of internet experts agreed
  23% disagreed
  10% challenged the prediction
  17% did not respond

We must and therefore will fix this problem. Private property is too valuable an economic tool. - Bob Metcalfe, Polaris Venture Partners, Ethernet inventor

Anonymity is not something we'll continue to treasure. In order to create trust, we need to know something about one another - we need to have persistent (even if pseudonymous) identities. These identities don't have to come from a central source - indeed, there should be competition for the provision of authenticating information, and lots of nuance with respect to how much identifying information is needed for a particular communication. This sort of thing must not be government mandated. Private ordering will map much more tightly to the groups it serves. So, anonymity may cease to be possible, but pseudoanonymity will thrive. - Susan Crawford, policy analyst for Center for Democracy & Technology and a fellow with the Yale Law School Information Society Project

There will always be independent software developers and hackers who are capable of circumventing any technological obstacles to file-sharing. The only question is whether the content-creation industries will be able to develop product offerings and business models that are more tempting that file sharing. - Alexandra Samuel, Harvard University/Cairns Project (New York Law School)

It's hard to take something away that you already have. I do have a problem with the wording of the prediction though. I doubt China's internet users are going to have that type of "Digital Freedom," and there are a lot of people in China. The concept of digital freedoms is closely aligned with other more narrowly defined concepts such as freedom of speech or freedom of the press. However, digital freedom is a much broader construct. - Robert Lunn, FocalPoint Analytics/USC Digital Future Project

Companies will develop elaborate means for protecting products and governments will support them. In addition, over time - longer perhaps than the 10 years asked about in the survey - people will begin to see the Internet as part of society and not as a wild territory beyond civilization where anything goes. As that change of view occurs, people will begin to obey rules that will reduce substantially the theft that goes on now. - Stanley Chodorow, University of California - San Diego/Council on Library and Information Resources

I agree. There is a strong movement toward open-source access to information and publications on the Internet. I regularly share my publications electronically and download others' publications. We still have to iron out some of the copyright laws, but I am confident the trend toward greater access to digital products, both scientific and artistic, will continue to grow. - Gary Kreps, George Mason University/National Cancer Institute

Digital rights management v. piracy (or, alternative phrasing: digital rights management v. public perception of "fair use"): It's a technology spiral, much like spammers v. spam blockers. What one side protects the other will crack; so the battle will continue, at least for a minority of users. But, for the majority of people, the development and expansion of services such as iTunes and new innovations in multimedia distribution will provide satisfactory solutions. - Rose Vines, freelance tech journalist for Australian PC User and Sydney Morning Herald

It is equally possible that intellectual property will be over-protected and fair-use rights will have eroded. - Peter Levine, University of Maryland

Old digital projects, yes. The new stuff will be protected better by virtue of its tremendous size. HiDef TV, for example, cannot be copied with current set-top boxes. - Douglas Rushkoff, author

Most material will be easily copied, but some material will be locked up. Most likely, it will be possible, but it will also be possible to get caught, and the penalties will be drastic. Hopefully, though, most people will find it easier to simply pay for copying fees, rather than trying to get something for nothing. - Simson Garfinkel, Sandstorm Enterprises/Technology Review

I think technical impediments, such as digital-rights-management systems, will prevent this. - Jonathan Band, partner, Morrison & Foerster LLP (law firm)

The prediction does not say if they will do so legally. I expect that business models will be worked out so that there is plentiful copying and it's all legal. - Peter Denning, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., columnist Communications of the ACM

This is not even true in 2004. Use of anonymous p2p networks is not as easy and as second nature to the average user as one may think. Once we study online skills in more detail we will realize that the average user knows less than academics/journalists tend to assume. So even if, technically speaking, it is possible to distribute digital products easily, many users likely don't know how to do it. The fears about copying due to lawsuits by RIAA and the like may become increasingly more widespread and may limit people's p2p activities even more. - Eszter Hargittai, Northwestern University

In 2014, although users may not specifically use anonymous peer-to-peer networks in the sense of Napster, the widespread free trade of digital products will re-emerge after an aggressive half-decade of failed attempts at copy protection by commercial interests. - Dan Ness, MetaFacts

The anonymous peer-to-peer networks will only survive so long as the industry refuses to offer consumers a viable alternative. The most successful industry in every technology cycle is the adult film industry. Digital media industry business strategists need to learn lessons from these thinkers, who continue to drive technology innovation as a way to maximize profits. - Elle Tracy, The Results Group

Of course, hackers, hacktivists and rogue programmers will always find a way to get round DRM-style measures of RIAA and their equivalents and share these methods freely. It will become easier to be anonymous on P2P networks. - Bornali Halder, World Development Movement

Copying and distributing will still occur. Licensing and copyrights will evolve to better address this reality. Corporations will come to realize to value of getting products in people's hands before they make a purchase. Demos and trialware will proliferate, as will "pay as you go" models. - Lyle Kantrovich, Cargill/the blog Croc o' Lyle

I do believe that all content once digitalized should be freely distributed to everybody. Information and culture to everyone, please. - Antonio Coelho,

It will depend on what type of product. Intellectual property will still have an owner. Owner's of content will have the ability to use sophisticated digital rights management tools (DRM) to determine who has the access to the content and who does not. However, where rights are granted, people will be able to distribute the content freely and easily through P2P and other networks. - Marty Shindler, the Shindler Perspective Inc.

This is one of the value-added features of the Internet. It cannot be defeated through software or DRM, and I have never understood why they try. - Mike Weisman, Reclaim the Media

In another 10 years, I would hope that consumers and the creators of digital products will arrive at a new social contract that eliminates anonymous P2P networks, makes digital products easily accessible and affordable for consumers, and rewards creators for their work. - Andris Straumanis, University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire

Anti-piracy measures have been largely ineffective. Organizations like the MPAA and RIAA need to embrace new technology and figure out how to benefit from it rather than denouncing it as evil. There were predictions that the VCR would destroy Hollywood years ago but it did the exact opposite. You cannot stop technology. If you want to succeed, you will have to embrace it and make it work for you. - Jay Buys, Fleishman Hillard

And the entertainment industry will at last have moved to the XXIst century, from a product economy to a service economy, thereby making more money than ever while contributing a little bit more (but not much more) to cultural inventiveness and diversity. - Daniel Kaplan, FING (France's Next-Generation Internet Foundation)

However, if barriers are erected high enough or the cost of alternatives is low enough, the scale of use could drop to just those willing to do the work to get around them. In the end, information wants to be free, and no-one can prevent a copy being made of a book, painting, song, or movie. - William Stewart,

If, by ''freely,'' you mean at no charge, I disagree. Too many people have an investment in intellectual property, for any of the major governments of the world to end that. As long as there are copyright, patent, and related laws, many of the owners of intellectual property will want to be compensated for its use even though information wants to be free! - Elliot Chabot, House Information Resources (House of Representatives)

And the following are from predictors who chose to remain anonymous: [Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below include AOL, Evident Marketing, the Future of Music Coalition, the Open Society Institute, MIT, RAND, Microsoft, Ventureramp, Jupitermedia, the University of Pennsylvania, Internet2, the University of Washington, the National Center for Technology and Law, University of Texas at Austin, Media General, University of Maryland, Rutgers University, Michigan State University, FCC, National Public Radio, University of California at Berkeley, Gartner, Fleishman-Hillard, North Carolina State University, Hewlett Packard, the Center for Rural Strategies, Albany Law School, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and others.]

Again, this comes down to decentralization or centralization. If security measures increasingly lead to centralization and lack of privacy protections on the web are continuously backed up by increased legal reach through copyright and patent law. I could easily see this as the Prohibition of our century. Decentralized licensing leads to a model where information can circulate, creators can be compensated and existing bottlenecks of control disappear.

The current copyright battles remind me of prohibition and its eventual overturn. When you have five billion people wanting to imbibe information in a certain way ... it's the providers that have to change their methods and we are already seeing this occur in news, music, software, etc. They will put up an initial fight but by 2014 the battle will be won and an accommodation made.

Copyright and intellectual property issues will tie this up for decades in the developed world, where most of the valuable content originates. Until there are mechanisms for revenue sharing that support peer to peer transfer this won't happen. I don't think it will until we restructure our economic and legal system, which certainly won't happen by 2014.

We have all ready seen some test marketing of digital books and it has not gone very well. It seems consumers actually like to sit with a good book and turn the pages. This will be one of those marketing issues that consumers decide. Music is another story. We have been very wary about changing the copyright system. The major blockade to the distribution of digital products is making that system work in some easy, legal way where gaining the rights does not cost so much that it prices the digital product out of the market. We are not there yet.

I am pretty certain that technologies that enable what Grant McCracken calls a "culture of commotion" will outstretch legal attempts to regulate such circulation, but it is going to be an ongoing battle.

Peer-to-peer networking is here to stay. What will have to change is the transactional business. Peer-to-peer networking is a disruptive technology that can only be addressed through innovative means.

I hope that this prediction turns out to be true, but I doubt it will be. There will be increasing pressure to "lock down" digital products and to eliminate anonymity. That's what I expect.

With micro-payments starting to make more sense, everything will be plug and play.

Encryption technology will outpace the technology of downloading.

I don't believe peer-to-peer will proliferate, as security and privacy issues increase the downside for consumers of unstructured and illegal sharing.

We're headed toward digital prohibition.

We will see two models of internet use emerging. One will be the commercial internet, where information is paid for. The other is the open source internet that is more artistic and chaotic in a positive way. We will come to associate the commercial internet with "credible" and the open source internet with "you never know what'y'a gonna get" though these perceptions will not necessarily align with the actual status.

Unfortunately, I think the "wild west" days are over for some forms of anonymous sharing.

The question is appealing, but I challenge it because I think there will be a splitting of behavior. I think that for much content such as movies and popular music, that there will be a shift to on-line sales and a lessening of the appeal of illicit sharing. I agree that the tools will be available to the vast majority of users, but I think as legal downloading gets easy and if competition drives the price down, this market will grow. But peer-to-peer may be used for other classes of digital information.

Peer-to-peer networks, while largely focused on illegal activities, are inherently hard to shut down. Recent court rulings have provided the legal cover they need to keep going.

The prediction mixes two concepts, "digital products" and "free replication." There are really two kinds of products: those that are placed deliberately in the public domain, and those over which authors want to retain control. I believe that P2P networks will evolve so that public domain works are easily replicated, while controlled products can only be copied in a controlled manner.

IP interests will continue to push for defensible limitations on redistribution.

The advent of digital rights management technologies imbedded in digital products, combined with the rise of identity-based "authentication" for network access will make it harder to copy and distribute, but not impossible.

Much content will still be freely available, but some will not. Workable DRM systems will protect the latter.

I think these are impossible to stop and so something must be done to create a flexible digital-rights-management system.

It's human nature to do this, so yes. Peer to peer networks are pretty much the same as tape trading, just easier and with vast availability. We in the music industry have to get off our high horse and make it more desirable to purchase media vs. trading it. iTunes has done a great job, in my opinion, of making the online acquisition of music a good experience for the user and this needs to be encouraged. In this model, we could actually save money on manufacturing and distribution costs if the volume was comparable.

There's no stopping p2p.

Digital file sharers will always stay one step ahead of programmers, regardless of how advanced digital copyright protections become.

New systems will be designed all the time to circumvent IP safeguards.

As much as any individual might want to see 'information be free', the rights of intellectual property holders will not be changed within the next 10 years. Current trends lead me to think that although there will always be renegade systems, the vast majority of individual users will be constrained by technological devices/software from copying and distributing legally protected materials freely.

Media is the new exchange economy. It is fungible. What is copy? Digital sampling. Media constructivism, is a form of expression. Remixing, sampling, recasting. See and spooky's new KKK remix. DJVJ, Control Room, we are all producers and consumers of media. We need to get out of our own way. PPV is the model. Open up the channels. Cable, utilities and telecom are holding us back. The net's new form is blending realities and structures of physical, virtual and biological. Web pages and bookmarks are a rearview mirror. Cyberspace has evolved to a new state. And most can not see it because they are not part of the cognitive tribe. We must pierce the veil of media as artifact and understand it as a form of expression to ever be able to postulate where it will be much less where it is or what form it takes as a verb. As performance art. As expression.

Like spam, it's an arms race. The means may change, DRM may change, but file sharing is here to stay.

There will be pirate undergrounds, but not used by ''the vast majority.'' Laws and prosecution will continue to dampen the activity of some. Copy protection at the software and hardware level will limit the activity for others. This is an area of concern of mine. The goverment continues to feed the corporate money machines via copyright extensions and heavy-handed restrictions. I fear you'll have to pay just to visit a library.

The ''vast majority'' of Internet users don't do this now, and won't, even in the next 10 years. They may be able, but the question implies that ability equates to action, which is not the case. And many users don't find current P2P networks at all easy. In the next 10 years the intellectual property owners will devise several means to deliver content people are willing to pay for - to avoid litigation, because it's better than the free version, because it's safer than the free version, because it's easier than the free version, etc., etc. etc. By 2014 we'll see a variety of models ranging from piracy to luxury premium services.

''Freely'' challenges too many entrenched ideas about intellectual property. I hope we find ways of lowering costs and increasing the flexibility of sharing, but digital property does have value, and we need to find ways of appropriately compensating their owners.

Other legal forms of distribution like podcasting will make this statement appear as dated as Edsel.

They will not need peer-to-peer networks to copy and distribute: they will set up their own file-sharing, and they will crack copy protection.

I think - no, I hope - that there is an intellectual-property commons that opens access to a much wider range of information and resources. If it comes to be, then it may not be ''anonymous'' peer-to-peer networks. Instead, p2p networks may be visible and supported by the community.

The culture industry is spending millions of dollars on legal and technological protection for their products and they are trying to destroy free speech, educational use, and first sale. They have the time and might to sue users, one by one, and are doing it. Congress is lax and does not understand the issue.

This practice has already been highly curtailed. Media giants will find ways to get their pound of flesh for the use of their products. The question I have is whether independent artists and other creators will find a way to get some kind of return from their work that is distributed via the Net.

Digital copyright law will adapt to technological and networking advances, and keep the current status quo. Some people will copy and distribute; the majority won't.

Ad supported products/content and micropayments will eliminate many of the copyright infringement issues not related to music or movies. The entertainment industry will continue to be attacked for its retrograde policies when it comes to licensing non-commercial use of content. Use of cryptography will only serve to alienate customers and drive up the payoff from hacking.

Peer-to-peer networks will be replaced with inexpensive server farms, and high-speed networks will allow users to connect to content they want without the insecurity of peer-to-peer invasion. The spyware-rich software that enabled peer-to-peer also increased skepticism about their reliability.

The smart companies will work with this need for free information, not against it.

The genie is out of the bottle as much as the content controllers would like to stuff it back. Soon the days of the middleman getting extremely rich off of the work of other will be gone.

Cartels that control the entertainment media will continue their relentless attack on consumer rights, and I expect them to be successful in driving file-sharing activities underground. The majority may still be able to copy and distribute digital products, but not easily and freely.


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