As a society and culture, we can pretty much obtain whatever form of entertainment we want from the internet nowadays. Sites like Napster, Limewire and PirateBay to name but a few are among the vast arsenal of tools we use on a day to day basis to pirate music, movies, programs and even games.
Tens of billions of dollars’ worth of material has been pirated globally, and until recently it has gone relatively unnoticed. Last year (to the world’s dismay) SOPA was introduced and in retaliation, popular sites such as Wikipedia and Google fought to shut the bill down. Many people around the world were shocked to hear the shutdown of MegaUpload, a popular file sharing site. But I’ll be honest here, I personally didn’t actually think that the government would actually start taking action after so many years.
So with that brief introduction, one must think “hm, I’m sure there’s a lot of controversy surrounding internet piracy!”
Some argue that it’s simply not ethically and morally right to steal other’s intellectual property, be it physical or virtual. Just like as if you or I were to waltz into the nearest Apple store and leave with a freshly stolen iPod, you would (hopefully) feel rather bad about it. The companies with the legal rights, not to mention the artists themselves, lose (potential) money each time a song or movie is pirated instead of bought. To those who rely on their trade to feed themselves and their family, that would be devastating.
As stated by Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University:
Of course, I am more fortunate than many authors or creative artists, because my academic salary means that I am not forced to rely on royalties to feed my family.
Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, and many European countries now have a public lending right, designed to compensate authors and publishers for the loss of sales caused by the presence of their books in public libraries. We need something similar for the Internet. A user fee could pay for it, and, if the fee were low enough, the incentive to use pirated copies would diminish. Couple that with law enforcement against the mega-abusing Web sites, and the problem might be soluble. Otherwise, most creative people will need to earn a living doing something else, and we will all be the losers.
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-ethics-of-internet-piracy#qQpJOdsUsqLo3qLq.99
However, others argue that while the property is technically “stolen,” the original is still there. It’s like if I were to steal my friends brand new bike, but he would still have the bike. As would I. We would both have the bike. Some people even go as far to say that companies are robbing artists of money, leaving less for the artists than deserved for doing most of the work. We never know for sure how much of the money 99c we spend on a song in iTunes actually goes to the artist, and how much goes to the record label and pretty much every other party involved.
Digging deeper, millions of dollars are reportedly spent on the enforcement of anti-piracy – the SOPA bill alone took an estimated 435 million from taxpayer dollars. Would it be wise then to continue pirating “free” media with the knowledge that the more you allegedly pirate something, the more the government will be inclined to use your very own tax dollars in order to try and stop it?
It’s really just a big huge game of whack-a-mole. Since the days of Napster, other programs such as Limewire and the aforementioned MegaUpload have all risen to fall, and yet still more such sites continue to rise. Is it truly worth it then, for the government to spend all this effort and resources to build a wall against what seems to be an unrelenting storm when there are much more important and imminent issues to be dealt with?
However considering all this, the internet piracy rate in the world doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. The internet is turning into a war ground, raging around the definitions of intellectual property and the limits to “free” information. As I listen to my favorite City and Colour song which I did not allegedly walk into a store and buy, I leave you with some more food for thought:
http://www.news.com.au/technology/pay-up-student-charged-six-figures-for-pirating-30-songs/story-e6frfro0-1226363068597 – A newly graduated PH.D student was charged heavily for distributing media, who allegedly cannot pay the charges. At what point does this become ridiculous?
http://zackhemsey.blogspot.ca/2012/03/real-issue-of-online-piracy-and-illegal.html – This guy presents some interesting thoughts but quite a few of them seem to be based on his own standards and general assumptions. There’s a bit of coarse language as well.
http://forums.philosophyforums.com/threads/internet-piracy-54305.html – Some pretty cool finds, though overall none much easier to decipher than our usual classroom discussions, as to be expected from a forum dedicated to philosophy.
Tread carefully my friends.