Friday, May 11, 2007

The slippery ethics of peer-to-peer downloading

An ethical query:

If we can agree that downloading music, movies, books, video games, or anything else from a peer-to-peer server instead of paying for it is stealing, at what point does such an act become acceptable?

Case in point: today I downloaded a CD -- The Best of the Moody Blues -- and a PC game, Black & White. Truth be told, I stole them. The end result is really no different than running into Wal*Mart and racing out with the packages tucked under my shirt.

But the subject becomes a little fuzzy when you consider this: I've already bought both of these items in the past. My Moody Blues disc has been lost over the various moves I've done in the last few years, and my Black & White disc was destroyed when it escaped from its case while in transit and was scraped against the bottom of a cardboard box for three days.

I could have downloaded the entire Moody Blues catalog, but did not -- I only got the CD I already paid for. And I downloaded not Black & White 2, but the original, which I bought when it was originally released 127 years ago. (Give or take.)

Surely, this is no less illegal. But is it more ethical?

These are the things I think about. This, and Lost.

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