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Q: Today, almost all written text, music, movies, and software are recorded digitally and can be easily copied and sent between PCs via the Internet. Millions of people and companies have taken
advantage of this to make illegal copies of music CDs, software programs, and DVDs. In 2003, for example, it was estimated that more than one-third of all CDs and cassettes around the world were recorded illegally. This is costing the music industry billion of dollars in sales revenues. As you can imagine, media industries have been doing everything they can to crack down on this practice, including shutting down Napster. Shawn Fanning created Napster.com while he was an undergraduate student at Northeastern University. His roommate had got into the habit of downloading music from Internet sites using the MP3 format, which compresses digital files, making them faster to transmit and easier to store. Fanning watched his roommate search the Internet for new material, and he realized that there was an opportunity to create a software platform that would allow people to more easily locate and download digital music files. Fanning created the software needed to do this, and word about Napster and the enormous volume of music available for free on the site, quickly spread. Soon, hundreds of thousands of people were swapping and downloading music. Computer servers at a number of colleges actually shut down, overwhelmed by people downloading songs from Napster. Obviously, companies in the music industry became desperate to stop this practice. Collectively, they sought a legal injunction to shut Napster down. Since it was clear that Napster was violating copyright laws, the courts stopped Napster from providing the free service. However, many other Internet sites quickly sprang up to fill the void. The music industry then successfully sought to have individual downloaders prosecuted. Is swapping songs on the Internet really unethical? Why are so many people doing it if it is illegal? The obvious answer is that people are doing it for their own personal gain. Who, goes the argument, suffers anyway? Music companies have been making billions of dollars from music sales for decades. True, the songs might be the property of music stars like the Rolling Stones and Eminem, but these people are fabulously wealthy. Why, then, shouldn’t the average person benefit from the new technology? After all, the pleasure gained by hundreds of millions of people is more important than the harm done to only a few thousand rich musicians and a handful of wealthy music companies. Therefore, copying is not really unethical. It may be illegal, but it’s not actually such a bad thing to do—or is it? Arguments like these may make people feel that their copying is doing no real harm to others, but the other side of this ethical dilemma also needs to be taken into consideration. What about the rights of artists and companies to profit from their own property—the songs, books, and movies that result from their creative endeavors? Those who claim the practice should be made illegal say that copiers should think about how they would react if someone tried to take their property away. Would they like it if a “poorer” person came along who believed, “They don’t need all those appliances, cars, and jewelry? I’ll just help myself; they’ll never miss it”? The fact is that those who steal digital media not only are weakening the rights of musicians and writers to own property, they are also weakening their own personal rights to own property. Digital piracy is neither fair nor equitable. And, although each person that engages in it might argue that the pilferage doesn’t have much of an effect because he or she is “only one person,” if many people do it, it’s clearly a problem. And that’s exactly what’s happening. To illustrate the problem, suppose that by 2010, 75% of all music and movies are illegally copied rather than bought. What will musicians, music companies, and movie? Stars, and movie studios do? If these people and companies cannot protect their property and profit from it, then they are not going to make or sell digital products. Over time, music and movie companies will cease to operate. Creative people will find new ways to make money. Musicians will make music only for their own pleasure or perform only in live concerts (where recording devices are not permitted). Fewer new songs and movies will be recorded, and the world will become a less interesting place to live in. explain how ethics and decision-making affect the individuals involved in this scenario.
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Asked 10/6/2013 12:42:17 AM
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