File Sharing Morality Essay

2466 words - 10 pages

Is the free sharing of copyrighted material on the internet a morally acceptable action? Can we apply different moral philosophies to such a modern problem? In recent history, with the advent of peer-to-peer sharing programs and the free availability of many different types of media on the internet, the morality of the sharing of copyrighted material has come into question. In order to gain understanding on issue, we can apply several universal moral theories, including the Kantian, Utilitarian, and Rights Ethics philosophies.
There are many users of the internet today, and a majority of them participate in file-sharing via the use of a wide variety of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. These ...view middle of the document...

Since then, Napster has taken the form of a pay-per-song style service, eliminating the free-sharing aspect of the program. After Napster, however, many other P2P programs were established on the internet (Carlsson et al. 2001). Today, the Kazaa service is one of the most widely used, offering the free download of music and movies to anonymous users. Kazaa has carefully avoided the problems that Napster ran into, however, by not physically storing the files on their servers; unlike Napster, Kazaa functions solely as a P2P network, facilitating communication between a user who has a specific file and a user who wants the specific file. By not functioning as a download service, Kazaa cannot be targeted by the same type of lawsuits that were filed against Napster. Kazaa is under constant judicial pressure to make sure that its users are not sharing copyrighted material, but it is still running today (www.kazaa.com). [1]
These programs have stimulated a serious discussion on the rights of the consumer versus the rights of the creator. Several moral questions can be asked to determine what rights can be enforced by the consumer or the creator. Regarding the rights of the consumer, we have to ask whether they have a right to the free access to the entire library of creative works today, and whether or not they can enforce this “right”, ignoring the copyright laws that are enforced today. The rights of the creator are more clearly defined than the rights of the consumer. The rights of the creator, as protected by law today, include the right to govern the distribution of their creation and the right to seek damages for infringement of their right to distribute. Regardless of the lawful protection of the rights of the creator, however, we can still ask moral questions about those rights. Does the creator really have the right to sue for the unlicensed distribution of their work? And if so, should the consumer seek damages from the distributor or the consumer? In September 2003, the RIAA sued several users of P2P networks, seeking damages for each song downloaded. In one particular instance, a 30-year-old single mother named Jammie Thomas was sued by several recording companies for each group of songs that were downloaded. This sum, including $9,250 per 24 songs shared on the Kazaa network, amounted to approximately $500,000 dollars . This is an important aspect to the morality of the creators seeking damages, as the woman did not have half of a million dollars to give to the record companies. Should the creators be able to sue individual users?
Obviously, the amount of moral questions posed by the issue is insurmountable without the application of universal theories. One might question if the older philosophies can be applied to such a modern problem, and in response to that I say that even though the philosophies are many decades old, they still hold true today. Because the theories are universal, they are able to be applied to any situation. In...

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