File Sharing Ethics

Posted on 07. Dec, 2007 by in Non-Profit ethics

Jason Cole asked:

Ever since the invention of the internet, people have used it to share files. Be it music, movies, video games, and other copyrighted and non-copyrighted electronic material. This has raised some interesting ethical issues. The debate over whether file sharing is legal and right is one of the most important issues dealing with the internet right now, and has sparked many lawsuits. Some of these lawsuits have even reached the United States Supreme Court. Today we’re going to be looking at both sides of the coin, the case for file sharing and the case against file sharing. You may decide yourself which argument you’re going to side with. And hopefully after reading this article you’ll be informed enough to make a decision.

The Case For

Many people that do share files over the internet believe that it does not cause anyone any harm, and in fact helps the industry who’s files are being shared. They believe that it allows the consumer to sample the product before purchasing the product, thus gaining the artist exposure that they wouldn’t normally have access to. There’s also the issue of file quality, as most files being traded are compressed and otherwise untrue to the quality of the original content. That and the fact that most of the time you cannot get materials like an instruction manual or DVD bonus features, which forces you to go out and buy the original, if those materials are of interest to you. Another argument for file sharing is that some people believe that CDs are far too expensive, and consumers who only want one or two songs should not have to pay the entire cost of a CD. Plus another justification for file sharing is that the companies from which the intellectual property is being stolen are large and generate high profits, and can thus afford the price of some copies being obtained illegally.

The Case Against

The case against file sharing is pretty simple. Some people believe that the music and other files that are downloaded are the work of the artist who made them, and is not public property. When people share files, one song that someone shares can be downloaded by another person and shared by them, then two copies can be shared and the process repeats to effectively create thousands of digital copies of a song from the one original file. Thus the band that recorded the song does not get paid for any of the thousands of illegal copies that were made. They believe that the effects of file sharing domino down the line and ultimately affect the salaries of all people involved with the production of the media in question.

So, in the end, the decision to share or download files online is up to you. Please beware that right now downloading and sharing files is illegal and you can be prosecuted. This being said, most people that share files are not prosecuted, and it seems that the government is looking more towards the actual file sharing networks (P2P) instead of single users. The most noticeable case was when the recording industries brought down Napster in 2001, and since then they continue to pursue the P2P networks.

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