File-Sharing and Net Ethics
Ownership is problematic politically and ethically. Anarchists would say that all property is theft and everything should be shared in common between us. Liberals would say that private property and rights to that property are fundamental freedoms, as well as starting points for a democratic, more equal society. Which is right? And how can we apply any ethics of private property or commons to the digital leisure space? This chapter examines the practice of downloading music and film files. I will begin with an overview of the sociology and anthropology of file-sharing, and its pre-internet equivalents. I will explore the prevailing practices and the commercialization of YouTube. I will explore the ways in which corporations and governments have reacted to illegal downloading through the construction of commercial downloading sites and transnational agreements and legislation on illegal downloading. I will explore Net users’ attitudes to downloading through an analysis of blogs, forum sites and in interviews. I will look at the ethical arguments for and against illegal downloading and copyright violation, and will suggest that users of the Net have lost their ability to make moral judgements, notwithstanding the anti-capitalist urge to steal from transnational corporations.
KeywordsPopular Culture Transnational Corporation Creative Industry Music Video Printing Press
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