Morality is an issue that will forever encompass debates from thousands of sectors around the world. There are no definite set of rules of what is moral and what is not; as such, it will infinitely be hard to define. Judging someone’s morality is going to be difficult given this lack of definitive structure of the subject itself. This paper will be discussing piracy (which is what copying cd’s may lead to) in the context of morality. As difficult as the task may sound, this paper shall try to be as objective as it can be given the infinite boundary of the context.
Piracy has been the thorn on the side of the music industry since the early 1990’s. Piracy is not even hard to do, given that one must simply stick a CD to a computer then transfer its entire contents to another and from there, numerous other copies can be made. The cycle does not and will not stop because most people prefer things for free. College students who must be the most frequent computer users will not be averse to copying CDs and distributing it to others. They sure enjoy their music and they normally are under strict budget due to their educational financial needs.
The music industry is not the only field that piracy has wrecked. Almost anything that is being distributed on a CD or uploaded online has been endangered by piracy. Software is easily pirated, the newest Microsoft products are easily found on bootleg shops, finding its way easily in the third world black market. Aside from software, there are videogames and movies that can easily be copied and sold for much less than the producer originally retailed it, all illegally, of course. With piracy, the artists, software developers, producers, actors, programmers suffer as they are not paid the royalties they deserve for working hard on their respective projects but the consumers win, as they get the media they want/need for free or at a considerably lower price.
The Utilitarian Approach
According to Velasquez, et al. (1989), “utilitarianism is a moral principle that holds that the morally right course of action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over harms for everyone affected.” The utilitarian approach can certainly be used by those who copy the CD’s and distribute it to a wider span of users. When a person purchases a CD and uploads its entire content online on a file sharing site, his reasoning is that, such upload can share the music to a wider variety of people. These people can get it for free thanks to that one person who uploaded it for sharing out of the goodness of his heart.
When a person buys a CD, he has paid for rights to use the content of that music. No matter how he abuses the content of that CD by repeated usage is something he is entitled to do. However, copying the entire contents of the CD and giving the copy to another person is another story as herein, he has breached some legal boundaries of his usage. Morality may be a subject that is infinite but legality has very strict confines and stepping beyond its boundaries is punishable by a hefty sum, long hours of community service or jail time.
The utilitarian reasoning is not a defense against illegal acts and as such, one cannot escape punishment by reiterating that he committed piracy for the benefit of the world, out of the goodness of his heart. In addition, the utilitarian approach does not consider the minority who will be affected by such act. For instance, the loss of income to those people who have labored to bring the media out on the market is not something utilitarianism will consider.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (n.d.), “in deontological ethics an action is considered morally good because of some characteristic of the action itself, not because the product of the action is good.” Given this definition, copying CDs onto another computer, given today’s anti-piracy campaign, is not going to be considered moral even though the intentions maybe good and the act may be easy to do. Music, movie, software, videogame industries have lost billions of dollars because of piracy, they are trying to fight it as best they can and as such, there are piracy warnings/threats on almost every media distributed. Doing it anyway will certainly question one’s morality over it.
To circumvent this, one does not usually copy CD’s. He goes to websites where he can share files. However, in the UK, such file sharing can now be considered illegal (Solanki 2010). Such is the campaign against piracy that in the US, every digital media sold in the market is protected by DRM, a software that limits the number of devices the content can be played in to typically, 5 machines (Grossman 2007). Exceeding this limit can raise questions on one’s morality via Deontological Ethics.
Copying the contents of a CD is piracy. Piracy nowadays is a criminal offense that is punishable by law. One can hardly find anything moral over something that is illegal. Even though piracy may be the most tolerated crime in the world, it will be best for the person to stay on the conservative side and not commit it, for his personal welfare.
Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.) Deontological ethics. Retrieved 19 July 2010 from
Grossman, L. (2007). The Battle Over Music Piracy. Time. Retrieved 19 July 2010 from
Solanki, M. (2010). File sharing becomes illegal as Government pushes through Digital
Economy Bill. SeekBroadband. Retrieved 19 July 2010 from http://seekbroadband.com/focus/2010/04/09/internet-technology-news/file-sharing-becomes-illegal-as-government-pushes-through-digital-economy-bill/
Velasquez, M. et al. (1989). Calculating Consequences: The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics.
Issues in Ethics V2 N1. Retrieved 19 July 2010 from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/calculating.html