# File-sharing's moral status?

Gold Member
Smurf said:
Well i dont think that argument is correct because your not building the tv, your copying it (think replicator from startrek or something). I suppose "stealing" doesnt work here however. But as far as it being moral, it shouldnt matter if its stealing or not or what the technicalities are. It should only be about what you get and what you did to earn it. I feel everything you get should be earned or be generous gifts based off what other people earned.

Averagesupernova
Gold Member
I dunno. I have mixed feelings about the whole deal. Software is sold with a license. The user is expected to follow the copyright law.

Think of it this way. Suppose I purchase a lawnmower to mow my yard. My neighbor also has a yard and since I know him well and trust him I allow him to use my mower. Is it unethical and/or immoral to do this? I have 'screwed' the mower manufacturer out of a sale of a mower by sharing. Yes, the mower may wear out faster because twice the use and etc. but this scenario could be extended to hand tools and things that really don't 'wear' out. Considering how short of a time it is before software is obsolete, the tools and mower will probably hold value longer than the software. But, software that is copied can be used in more than one place at the same time where a hand tool that is shared cannot. But, with careful sharing and planning, software can be shared between users on the same machine. I personally think that most software manufacturers get paid well for their services.

Pengwuino said:
It should only be about what you get and what you did to earn it. I feel everything you get should be earned or be generous gifts based off what other people earned.
It is. Someone earned money, bought the CD, copied to his computer and then gave it to the world.

But that's not what you meant... is it? You need to redefine your explanation to be more specific.

Gold Member
Yes but the "world" is immoral for getting it. They are all getting stuff they didnt earn from people they dont even know. I just dont see how someoen can justify the morality in coming to a computer and downloading a thousand cds and a hundred movies off of various IP addresses and then watching/listening to all of it. Its something for nothing off of someone you dont even know.

Pengwuino said:
I just dont see how someoen can justify the morality in coming to a computer and downloading a thousand cds and a hundred movies off of various IP addresses and then watching/listening to all of it.
I don't see how someone can call it a crime.
Its something for nothing off of someone you dont even know.
Why is a gift only justified by familiarity? Do you want to shut down charities as well?

Gold Member
Smurf said:
I don't see how someone can call it a crime.
Is anyone calling it a crime?

Smurf said:
Why is a gift only justified by familiarity? Do you want to shut down charities as well?
Your GIVING to a charity, not sharing. You dont both claim ownership of a $5 bill. You dont counterfeit money and give it to charity. Pengwuino said: Is anyone calling it a crime? Yeah, actually, a lot of people are. Almost every country in the world's government actually. And you're supporting them by calling it immoral. Your GIVING to a charity, not sharing. You dont both claim ownership of a$5 bill. You dont counterfeit money and give it to charity.
Whatever, the point is why is familiarity necessary to share with someone?

Gold Member
Smurf said:
Yeah, actually, a lot of people are. Almost every country in the world's government actually. And you're supporting them by calling it immoral.
Getting drunk is considered by some to be immoral. Are you willing to attack those people too?

Smurf said:
Whatever, the point is why is familiarity necessary to share with someone?
Because it no longer fits the idea of "sharing". You share with your neighbor, you share with your friend. You dont "share" with 80 million domain names and IP addresses. The REAL point here is if can you actually look at yourself in the mirror and say "i should be able to listen to any cd and watch any movie or use any piece of software or play any game simply because some unknown person possibly thousands of miles away put up a few bucks for it".

Pengwuino said:
Getting drunk is considered by some to be immoral. Are you willing to attack those people too?
That's exactly the point. No. I choose not the drink, but I don't force that on other people. You can drink if you want, so long as doing so doesn't endanger other people. I just might not want to hang around you. I'm not trying to force eveyone to start file-sharing.

Because it no longer fits the idea of "sharing". You share with your neighbor, you share with your friend. You dont "share" with 80 million domain names and IP addresses. The REAL point here is if can you actually look at yourself in the mirror and say "i should be able to listen to any cd and watch any movie or use any piece of software or play any game simply because some unknown person possibly thousands of miles away put up a few bucks for it".
Here, I'll go do it now. Ok, done. I don't see a reason why I shouldn't be able to. I support companies, bands and people who I want to support, in many ways. Sometimes I even buy retail CDs.

Gold Member
How does that support them though? You get their music, they dont recieve anything in return. One single person could buy a cd, the record company could make $15. He could then share it with a million people. How is this supporting the company and bands? Pengwuino said: How does that support them though? You get their music, they dont recieve anything in return. One single person could buy a cd, the record company could make$15. He could then share it with a million people. How is this supporting the company and bands?
It doesn't. And it doesn't have to. If I like a band I might (rarely - and then it's only the small bands) buy a cd of theirs, but I'll go to their concerts if they come to town, and more often than not I'll buy sheet music or chord charts for their songs from them.

I have a pair of shorts made purely out of patches with logos of bands (and other groups that can only be described as 'stuff') that I like and want to support.

Most of the bands I really like arn't available on any file sharing networks, or are very difficult to get. I upload songs of these bands all the time, this helps them more than it hurts them too, because then when they go to another town there will be people there who have actually heard of them and they'll go to their shows.

I'm not hurting them at all, I'm not even taking away 'potential profit' because I'm sure as hell not going to buy music from a band that I don't even know if I'll like or not.
Like I said; I support them, in many ways.

Gold Member
Buying CD's negates the threads purpose. Going to their concerts also does not count because it is a disconnect from the thread.

Putting patches of logos on your shorts does not 'put food on the table' for them.

Your also only talking about no-name bands. Now, although there probably the better bands, this is not a thread on "feeling right about downloading music from groups that suck compared to good bands". If your bands were popular and near-household names, you sound like you would have a different opinion. Unfortunately, this new opinion would be irrelevant as is the idea that its good because its a no-name band. The entire purpose is to show whether file-sharing as a whole, is immoral or not on the scales that its done today.

Pengwuino said:
The entire purpose is to show whether file-sharing as a whole, is immoral or not on the scales that its done today.
*sigh* Ok. Then why is it?

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Well, I guess we're just proving here how complicated matters of ethics really are. In many cases, file-sharing can almost certainly be considered immoral. In many other cases, it probably cannot be. In some cases, it is very ambiguous. For instance:

My roommate downloaded Hotel Rwanda. She had seen it in theaters, but I had not. Neither of us is going to buy the DVD. Whoever made this movie did receive money from her, but not from me. They only received money from her once, while she saw the movie twice. What is the moral status of each of our acts? I'd say this one is pretty ambiguous.

My ex-girlfriend almost never buys CDs anymore. She probably owns upwards of 500 albums that she never paid for and never will. She does go to concerts to see these bands, and she has discovered new bands this way, but even so, she has pirated hundreds of albums without paying. I'd say this is clearly unethical.

I downloaded a DVD rip of Revenge of the Sith and have watched it many times. However, I also saw it several times in theaters and will buy the DVD when it is released. I just don't want to wait. I'd say this one is fine.

I used to own hundreds of CDs that I bought in stores. Over the years, however, I have copied all of them to burned CDs and sold the originals back to record stores. Is there anything unethical about doing this? What about all of the copies I have made for friends, my little sisters, and my mother?

Gold Member
Smurf said:
*sigh* Ok. Then why is it?
Well if we look at loseyourname's examples, we can see why its immoral in my mind in a majority of cases.

Lets set up loseyournames examples as numbers. The hotel rwanda is case #1, next is #2 with the ex-girlfriend, revenge of the sith is #3, and the final one is #4.

#1, ambiguous as this is somewhat equivalent to having a friend over to watch a movie.

#2, as per my argument, is VERY unethical. You are not supporting anyone and you getting incredible entertainment for none of your own money. THIS case is where i see huge immoral value. THIS is also the case i see with a huge majority of my friends and family members. I've seen cd-case after cd-case full of copied cds. Fully enjoyed, not a cent to the maker.

#3, ambiguous but dealing with moral relativism as ill explain later

#4, this is counterfeiting, plain and simple. Your actually profiting while keeping 100% of your entertainment value. Giving to your family is another problem dealing with moral relativism.

As for the idea of moral relativism, we're really showing signs of "well, i just did it for a few friends, its not wrong" or "it was small so its not really wrong". Is stealing just a little money ok? Is going into a store and stealing the cheaper tv ok? To me, when it comes to right vs wrong, it doesn't matter on what kind of scale its done. I would hope that a lot of people would agree with me here...

Plus the reality of file-sharing is that a LOT of people are garnering tens of thousands of dollars worth of software for free. I use to be rather experienced in the real world of "file-sharing" when things were still done on small scales in IRC channels and such. Ask most people on the scene back then and there was no question that it was not only illegal, but wrong as well. There were pieces of software for download that costs upwards of $10,000 in real life. It was a digital black market, plain and simple and we all knew it. I personally never downloaded anything over$200 because to me, at some point, it was just crossing a line to me. But meh... i dunno... other people can think its OK i suppose.

Huh...

Ok, now that we've all heard eachother viewpoints. Why don't we address the actualy question, which is: How do we address file-sharing and how should it be controlled if at all?

Gold Member
That wasnt the question at all. Its if its moral or not.

People should be allowed to trade all they want... really hard to justify otherwise because its simply a mode of transportation.

Pengwuino said:
That wasnt the question at all. Its if its moral or not.
That's the same question. I'm just putting it into a context. What should a moral society do about it?

Gold Member
A moral society would shut it down. A free society would leave it open lol

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Pengwuino said:
#4, this is counterfeiting, plain and simple. Your actually profiting while keeping 100% of your entertainment value. Giving to your family is another problem dealing with moral relativism.
Sorry for not responding to this until now. I want to take a deeper look at this case study. Forget about making copies for my little sisters and let us focus on copying CDs I had already bought and selling back the originals.

We have to take into consideration everything surrounding the case; put it into perspective, so to speak. We'll simplify things for the sake of illustration as well. First, we'll say that I originally spent $15 per CD, which is probably pretty close to accurate. When I sold them back, I received, on average,$3 per CD. My act of selling back does not affect the record companies or the artists, as they do not have to give any money to me. It is the record store that does, so we'll consider only the consequences to them. First off, let us ask why they buy back CDs in the first place. So they can sell them again, right? We'll say, for the sake of illustration, that they sell each CD that I sell to them, on average, for $6. This gives them a net revenue from each CD they originally sold me of$18. This is more than the $15 net revenue they would have received for each CD had I never sold them back. I also bought the blank CDs from the same store, so they made a little more money that way as well. What this means is that 1) The record companies and artists lose nothing from my act, and 2) The record stores gain from my act. Furthermore, you can't say that I've profited from this act, since my own net revenue is -$12 per CD. So what is it that makes this act immoral?

Note: I'm basing 'morality' on my own personal conception that any action is immoral only if it harms someone.

I think it's immoral because if the artist didn't create it, then I wouldn't be enjoying it. I'm willing to pay a couple bucks for something that I really want. It's not like I want every movie in the world or every song, there's a few that I really want, I go to iTunes and buy it legally.

Micheal Moore said that filesharing is moral as long as people are not selling things and making money. Therefore I did not fell I had been immoral when I downloaded his documentary Fahrenheit 911. However, I respect other musicians that may not want there files to be shared or their movies to be pirated onto the internet before they come out . I think most bands, however, feel that they do very well monetarily from their bussiness, and do not mind their art and opinions to be shared. For this reason, I find file sharing to be moral in most cases.

P.S : this is a very tricky issue and I myself have had many second thoughts on my ideas.

Gold Member
delton said:
Micheal Moore said that filesharing is moral as long as people are not selling things and making money. Therefore I did not fell I had been immoral when I downloaded his documentary Fahrenheit 911.
Well this is one of the special cases. He explicitely told people that they can share it across P2P networking and such.

delton said:
I think most bands, however, feel that they do very well monetarily from their bussiness, and do not mind their art and opinions to be shared. For this reason, I find file sharing to be moral in most cases.
whoa wait just a minute. It is simply your opinion that they dont mind their cd's being shared. This is like saying that Best Buy makes a lot of money and that you think they would not mind their equipment being shared, thus stealing from them would be moral.

There are an increasing number of artists putting copy protections on their cds. Sometimes they come out and say they will... sometimes they don't say but it ends up being impossible to copy them (without some hacks or go-arounds). About 4 or 5 years ago, when I use to do this stuff, coming up to a cd that didnt copy with the simplest of software was unheard of! Now im constantly getting people asking me why they cant copy this cd or that cd or why they cant find this cd online or that cd online.

Filesharing is stealing. In the case of music, you are stealing the right to hear
the music in exactly the same way as if you sneak into a concert without buying
a ticket.

That right, to let you listen, belongs to the music publisher and they will let
you listen for a few dollars.

The argument that "it's not really taking something becaue they still have it"
is false. They no longer have the money you should have paid them for hearing
the song. The song itself was never for sale, only the the right to hear it. When
you buy a CD, you are not (just) buying a peice of plastic. You are buying the
right to hear the content as many times as you want. Further, just because you buy
a CD doesn't mean you can play your CD for 100,000 people. They have not
purchased the rights you have.

This filesharing is like the lilliputians piling onto gulliver. The result will be
that there will be no publishing houses to distribute music and therefore
no way for artists to get paid for their craft, and therefore a dramatic
reduction in the number of people who can make a living playing music!

Is that what you really want?

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Yea... I've changed my mind and I agree it's definently immoral, not to mention illegal in the US