DeVoss, Danielle Nicole, and James E. Porter. “Why Napster Matters to Writing: Filesharing as a New Ethic of Digital Delivery.” Computers and Composition 23 2 (2006): 178-210. Print.
DeVoss and Porter push against traditional disciplinary understandings of authorship and ownership in this essay. Specifically, the authors argue that p2p file sharing in general – and Napster in particular – are representative of a new “digital ethic’ that understands file distribution and creation in a fundamentally different way from conventional expectations that have governed print-based documents. Because this new file sharing ethic has permeated our student’s lives, composition teachers have an obligation to understand how the process of sharing influences how their students come to the rhetorical situation and to encourage students to utilize the “fair use” clause to appropriate pieces of culture for academic purposes. As Napster is fundamentally a technology that transformed conventional rhetorical conceptions of delivery – by positing that writing is actually an interweaving of numerous forms of digital media for distribution across networked environments for a diverse group of audiences – composition teachers should also recognize that these new digital media texts should prompt composition teachers to revisit print-based notions of intellectual property and copyright; further, the Napster case should push teachers to reconsider their understanding of digital delivery, plagiarism, and broader digital composition pedagogies to better understand “value” and the reason why people want to compose writing for/on the internet.
Interestingly, DeVoss and Porter recognize that social capital is created in these digital filesharing spaces by recognizing the source of the information – be that an artist, or a hacking/cracking group (186-7). The authors also register their own anxieties about authorship and attribution in file sharing environments because, ultimately the naming of files and generation of metadata related to those files is in the hands of the uploader. On a finishing note, the authors also provide a really nice articulation of the corporatization of the internet so that free-market, post-industrial capitalism and the knowledge economy are provided secure spaces to expand and command.