Software piracy and illegal file shares is becoming a bigger issue in modern day society, more likely with the youth of society. All computers now come with burn-ware technologies in which the user can take a product and create copies of that software. Originally, this process was created in order to provide methods of backing up a person’s computer files, in case of hardware crashing and system reboots. However, the situation has changed. People are now able to copy any type of media file (DVDs, CDs, operation systems, etc) and give out these products, free of charge.
Do you like that CD that your friend bought the other day? Ask him to burn you a copy, then you can have it too. Did your latest version of Microsoft Windows crash on you and you don’t have the recovery discs? No problem. Get a friend to burn you a copy of their recovery discs. And what’s the best thing about these transactions? You don’t have to pay for anything! Broke college students rejoice! In Bernard Gert’s essay, Is it Moral to Make Copies of Software for my Friends? ,the ethics of this trend are discussed. What are the ethical guidelines when it comes to computers? Is it acceptable to copy software?
Gert’s conclusion is that it is not morally acceptable to copy software, no matter who the software is for and regardless if it is free of charge. It is an illegal action, as there are laws against such activity, and therefore it is unacceptable to partake in such action. Although still possible to perform while still illegal, this doesn’t mean that it is acceptable. A law cannot be broken just because someone has the means of doing so. Gert first explains the ethics of breaking the law. He states that “one cannot limit the subject matter of the law to a particular law one dislikes.
” He uses the example of smoking by minors to back up this argument. The law is that you must be 18 years old in order to buy cigarettes. However, minors cannot just go out and buy cigarettes and smoke because they dislike the law. It’s still a law; not liking the law isn’t a justifiable reason to try and break it. The only time that it is acceptable to break a law is in the situation in which the law is unjust. If a law is unjust and has a negative effect on society, then it should not be a law in the first place, thus making it acceptable if the law is to be broken because eventually, this will cause the law to be overturned.
However, current software copying laws are not unjust, and if they are to be considered unjust, there is no clear and valid reason of why they are unjust. Copying laws are not morally unacceptable, making it unacceptable to break these laws. Gerts compares this issue to speed limits. Speed limits are the accepted law of whatever state they are set in. These speed limits are not hurting society and are morally acceptable within the community. Because of this, it is looked down upon when a driver breaks the speed limit, becoming so unacceptable that legal action can take place.
Speed limits are not suggestions, they are laws. These laws are in no violation of morality and therefore they must be followed. Gert also believes that it is not acceptable to break a law in the event that one thinks that some other law would be better. If society allows violation of the current law due to the fact the society is in favor of other laws that are not passed, then it becomes acceptable for everyone to break every law. If everyone has this mentality, then law becomes obsolete. Why even bother having any laws if everyone feels that they can break them because they don’t agree with them?
Gert believes that this mentality will lead into anarchy. As for software laws, Gert believes that because these laws are not unjust and are not causing any harm, it is not morally acceptable for anyone to be breaking the law. He claims that he does not know enough about the current laws to admit that there may be other more suitable and better laws that for this issue. However, that does not mean that software copying shouldn’t be illegal or have penalties. Gert states that illegally copying software cannot be described solely based on the “morally relevant issues, as it brings in one’s biases with regard to software”.
People may only see it as doing a favor for a friend when they copy software. How can an act with good intentions possibly be immoral? According to Gert, it doesn’t matter of what the intentions were; motives don’t determine the morality of an action. In conclusion, for these reasons, Gert determines that copying software is not morally acceptable. II. Evaluation According to Gert, it doesn’t matter of what the intentions were; motives don’t determine the morality of an action. Here, I find myself agreeing with Gert. Just because you have good intentions, it doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to violate the law.
Hitler had good intentions, didn’t he? He wanted to cleanse his country and make his country better for the people he deemed valuable. Sure, he killed millions of people, but the good intent was there, right? Wrong. His intentions do not justify anything that he did. A person could justify burning software by saying that he is doing it to help out his friend, but his good intentions mean nothing. He still did something that was against the law, and therefore it is wrong. The second and last thing that I agree with Gert about is that it normally should not be acceptable for a person to break the law.
The only time it is permissible is when the law is an unjust one that brings more harm than good to society. In America’s early years, did the settlers not eventually find King George’s rule to be unjust? Did we not find his laws and policies unbearable? Did we not oppose them and fight them? America was born by breaking the law! And this is acceptable! Why? Because it was against injustice. The only time a law can be broken is when it is unjust. We, as Americans, cannot argue with this. However, are piracy laws unjust? Gert certainly doesn’t think so. I’m not sure if I agree with him.
A weakness that Gert has is that he admits that he does not know much about the piracy laws. He knows that there are laws making copying illegal, however, he does not explain them because he does not know enough about them to do so. It makes me wonder “if you don’t know everything about your subject, then why are making such an effort to persaude me to believe your opinion? ” He loses credibility and this hurts him. If you are going to argue a viewpoint, I would prefer that the person pleading his case knows a lot about the subject matter. To be honest, I don’t think Gert knows a lot about the situation.
He rarely actually talks about the core subject: copying software. Instead, he talks about the morality of breaking the law in general. He just happens to throw software piracy in there to add another example of the morality of breaking the law. This severely hurts his thesis and essay in general. Another weakness in this paper is the ‘slippery slope’ argument that he makes about breaking laws in favor for other laws. He claims that this will lead to anarachy. If people don’t want to obey the law because they think some other law would be better, how will this lead to anarchy?
Couldn’t it be possible that it will just lead to the replacement of laws? If there is such replacement, how will it lead to chaotic anarachy? He does not explain why such a process will lead to anarachy; he just states that it will lead to it. Not only is his argument flawed, there is a flaw within the flaw. He can’t even explain his wrong reasoning. But then again, maybe that is the whole point of illogical reasoning: there is no logical reasoning! A final weakness that I found a couple of times in Gert’s essay is that he uses some faulty analogies.
He compares software laws to speeding laws and drinking laws, among other breif examples. He uses these examples in his arguments about the morality of breaking the law. If one does not agree with the speed limits, he is not obligated to break them simply because he does not like them. If an 18 year old wants to drink when the legal drinking age is 21, he cannot do so just because he doesn’t agree with the law. Thus, if a person wants to copy a CD for their friend and it is illegal, he cannot do so. I don’t believe that piracy laws fall in the same field as speed limits and underage drinking.
I think those problems impact society much more than a burned copy of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. These are just different situations and they shouldn’t be compared on the same level. So it is morally acceptable to copy software for my friends? I personally believe so for a couple of reasons. I am guilty of illegally copying music and movies, and I see nothing wrong with anything that I have done. I’m a criminal justice major and I understand the piracy laws. I still see nothing wrong with it. If burning a CD or a DVD is so morally wrong, then why do stores provide the means of doing so?
Stores sell burnable discs in which you can copy anything onto them. How can anyone be expected NOT to burn software or a CD? These discs aren’t illegal, but the act of copying is illegal. Yes, I understand that the original purpose of these rewritable CDs and DVDs were to be storage devices for personal work, but the times have changes as the technology has evolved. Do not provide the means of a crime if you do not want the crime to happen. I’m positive that the main reason why people burn software is because of the money involved. Downloading something is free.
If I have a free option, then why should I bother buying something? If I only like one song on a CD, why should I have to shell out twenty-five dollars to buy the whole thing? CDs only cost companies ten cents to burn, and an additional two dollars for the packaging. I understand that there are labor fees to be paid as well, but why does the media industry have to charge their consumers, their lifeblood, these ridiculous prices? My laptop crashed recently. Nowadays, laptops are being sold with the software already installed onto the hard drive. This has added a hidden cost to the overall cost of the laptop.
Along with this, no discs are provided. You’re paying for software that you have no legal copy for. When your laptop crashes, you no longer have the software. So when my laptop crashed, resulting in me buying a new hard drive, what did the technical support people tell me to do? They told me that I had to buy the operating system separately. It was an annoyance to do so, but it was an option. Do you know how much Windows Vista goes for? Two hundred fifty dollars. Well, there goes that option for this poor college student. My solution to my problem?
I found a friend with Vista and I got him to copy the software for me. If the legal copy did not cost so much, I would have purchased it. I think that’s the root problem of this issue. If companies didn’t sell their software at such an absurd price, more people would turn away from illegal means of obtaining said software and actually acquire it legally. I see no problem with downloading software because of this key reason. Illegal copying and downloading of software, music, and movies is just something that isn’t possible to monitor. There are millions of people all over the world doing this.
How can officials possible prosecute these people? How can they possibly track them down? Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as email tracking and there is no such thing as download tracking. There is no such technology to know exactly what illegal site someone has been on and downloaded something from. If you take my mp3 player, there is no way that you would be able to tell which songs I purchased and which ones I have illegally downloaded. It is the same situation if you took a look on my computer. Which files were obtained illegally? You’ll never know.