Paul Lachine

The Ethics of Internet Piracy

Last month, the US considered legislation that aimed at stopping Internet piracy. The measure went too far, and has been withdrawn, but, unless a workable solution is found, most creative people will need to earn a living doing something else, and we will all be the losers.

PRINCETON – Last year, I told a colleague that I would include Internet ethics in a course that I was teaching. She suggested that I read a recently published anthology on computer ethics – and attached the entire volume to the email.

Should I have refused to read a pirated book? Was I receiving stolen goods, as advocates of stricter laws against Internet piracy claim?

If I steal someone’s book the old-fashioned way, I have the book, and the original owner no longer does. I am better off, but she is worse off. When people use pirated books, the publisher and the author often are worse off – they lose earnings from selling the book.

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