The ethics of internet piracy (by Peter Singer)

February 25, 2012

Recently an article by Peter Singer was published by project-syndicate, discussing the ethics of internet piracy. 

While the whole article is absolutely worth reading, here are a few paragraphs that seem to catch the essence:

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.

But, if my colleague had not sent me the book, I would have borrowed the copy in my university’s library. I saved myself the time needed to do that, and it seems that no one was worse off. (Curiously, given the book’s subject matter, it is not for sale in digital form). In fact, others benefited from my choice as well: the book remained on the library shelf, available to other users.

I am an author, as well as a reader. One marvel of the Internet is that some of my older works, long out of print, are now far more widely available than they ever were before – in pirated versions. Of course, I am more fortunate than many authors or creative artists, because my academic salary means that I am not forced to rely on royalties to feed my family. Nevertheless, it isn’t hard to find better purposes for my royalty earnings than Kim Dotcom’s environmentally damaging lifestyle. We need to find a way to maximize the truly amazing potential of the Internet, while properly rewarding creators.

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