Is file-sharing morally wrong?

August 19, 2008

keyboardhand-sherwincrasto.jpgA woman who shared a pinball game online has been ordered to pay 16,000 pounds in compensation and legal costs to its creator.

The Patents County Court in London ruled in favour of TopWare Interactive, a U.S. computer game developer that said she had infringed its copyright.

The case is the latest attempt by the entertainment industry to try to protect its music, games and films from growing threat of online piracy, which it says is killing business.

Quicker Internet connections have sparked a boom in people swapping music, films or TV programmes.

The Recording Industry Association of America says file sharing has hit profits, put songwriters out of work and made it harder for new bands to get a contract.

“The crime is theft,” it says on its website. “Everyone who makes, enjoys or earns a living in music is hurt.”

File sharers hotly dispute that argument.

Copyright infringement is not the same as theft because the owner is not deprived of their property.

You wouldn’t expect to end up in court if you loaned a book or DVD to a friend, they argue. So why should it be any different with digital tracks or films?

Cracking down on file sharers will simply drive them further underground, making it even harder for companies to make money out of their content, according to contributors on the Open Rights Group website

Regardless of the legal arguments, do you think file sharing is morally wrong? Do you think it stifles creativity by reducing the amount available to spend on new acts?


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Where do I send the check for listening to the radio or watching the t.v. or perusing the book store. This whole argument is ridiculous! Every file I have ever downloaded has only sent me on a quest to purchase said copywrited file. Message ” stop your himey greedy actions against said perpatrators and produce more of what makes you rich”

Ask “Steam”(Valve) how many of the half life series of games I own which I have purchased for myself, my son, my daughters and several relatives and friends as well as promoted and spread among friends! (All of them)

Hell maybe Steam should be sending me a commission cheque considering the sales that were generated by one loaned file called Half-Life.

The whole point of the matter is these companies should consider file sharing as free adverts for their products which would probably sell less without p2p. As for music files, there is no exchange of money between p2ps thus no copywrite infringement, as when a radio station broadcasts that same music for you to listen to for no charge. The copywrite fees are paid by the advertisers on the radio station, to the record labels directly because they are using the music to benefit financially, show me the same for a p2p user.

Any court will give anyone a chance to state their case, and are bound by law to do so for both sides. Lets hope sanity prevails in the court room.

Oh by the way, all of the music I have downloaded, I have bought in past or presently have, hope you can prove that wrong Sony,MCA,Polydor etc….

Posted by Brent | Report as abusive

File sharing is not morally wrong.

It’s the obscene amount of money paid to industry stars and executives.

If they cut their salaries and behaved in a reasonable manner then i would not mind paying. but when they are spending millions on drugs and booze and get in the papers all smug about it then it pees me off no end. They need to get into the real world.

Posted by Graham | Report as abusive

Did the woman make any money whatsoever from sharing this file? Was she selling pirate copies of this software?

Or did she download and enjoy a pinball game and rather than ‘leach’ it wanted to share it with others?

This fine is ridiculous. What the woman did was not wrong and those real criminals who make money from fake dvd’s (with godawful quality) are laughing all the way to the bank.

How much would someone be fined for selling illegal copies of this software at a market? Not a lot and yet they would actually be trying to make some money!

Why not give the woman ten years in jail for this ‘heinous crime’? It’s almost as ridiculous as trying to get a single mum to pay up 16K for lending a few friends a digital copy of a pinball game.

If it had been really good people would have bought it!

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

A lot of people seem to be under the misconception that file sharing constitutes lending a file to someone, however all digital piracy over the internet involves downloading your own copy of a file. Sharing would imply you give it to someone for a while then they give it back and can’t use it in the meantime, i.e. you share the file over time. So file sharing is in fact not file sharing at all, it’s file copying, which we would all agree is illegal.

Someone stated it’s like lending someone your car… how? It’s more like making a perfect copy of your car in about 10 minutes without doing any work, and then GIVING that one to your friend, and then doing the same and GIVING them to thousands of other people… I think the car manufacturer would rightfully so have something to say about that.

Don’t get me wrong, I have indulged in file sharing, but if I like a song or album or anything that i’ve ‘file shared’ then I tend to go out and buy it.

Think of it another way, imagine the situation where file sharing is declared legal and everybody in the world turns to it, afterall what would be the point in paying for something you can get for free if it is declared legal. Who would then produce the content, which would also have to be produced for free in order to not make a loss…

We live in a capitalist world, unless that fundamentally changes, then manufacturers of goods will defend their right to make a profit, as will the courts. Anyone who supports the idea of file sharing that is essentially file copying is also supporting the idea that they should work for free… get to it chop chop!

Posted by Jimbob | Report as abusive

For the generous: share what is yours. It’s that easy. The songs, films, and games you offer to thousands of people you do not know online are not yours. You paid for a copy (if you paid) for your personal use. That does not entitle you to become a distributor (beyond that one copy,depending on your license). But this is not a legal debate, judging from prior comments.

Can you find justifications for file sharing? Sure you can. Particularly if you are a primary beneficiary. It’s human nature.

File sharing is not morally wrong. Sharing files which you have no right to share is morally wrong.

The real problem is that people assume they can do online what they would never do offline. People who have no problem leaving their harddrive open to total strangers so they can “share” content professionally produced by others would not dream of starting a CD or DVD replication operation in their garage to give those away to strangers. But the bandwidth they are consuming is diminishing that part of the commons and the industries they are putting in danger are potentially at the core of the networked economy. Once the commoditized pipes and boxes that connect everyone are there, what will make that economy run? Content and the interactions on those pipes.

Wake up people, this is about more than downloading David vs “multinational corporation” Goliath.

It’s about whether your own rights and freedoms are protected online. Today, they are not – try your ISP when you have a problem with online content or behaviour.

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

I am laughing because Asians don’t give a damn about youtube pirates (and) upload their anime. It’s only Americans and the English.

Guess what? Anime is thriving.

Just Google “japanese Anime studio embraces Youtube pirates”.

Posted by Laughing | Report as abusive

What above sue them for ilegal entering with there advertisement which is getting to my PC! And for spam support!

It’s time take them to court to pay us!

If you don’t like a store’s product pricing, will you just shoplift and say the stuff’s too expensive anyway? Or would you not boycott the store completely and go somewhere else? Do you not have to pay for all clothes you buy even if you don’t wear them? How about photocopying a book so you don’t have to buy it? Downloading or sharing licensed software, music or movies for free is just breaking the license rules and that’s just like shoplifting. If you want to complain about licensing rules, why don’t you just boycott the songs and movies that have them? What right do you have to get the songs if you don’t follow the rules of who produced the songs? That means the authors, singers, producers, etc. Moral wrong? No. Illegal? Definitely. Stop rationalizing. Mob rule doesn’t make it cool or okay.

Nice if someone would start a legal defence fund to help this woman (and others) fight the RIAA – I know I’d paypal over a few bucks – it’d feel good!

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Is it moral that a singer can make more money than the best scientist in the world?

Is it moral to ask thousands of dollars for a concert when what you are doing is just performing a show that could have not been possible if people did not know or like “your” music?

I agree with all those who say technology for sharing has set a new scenario that music related companies haven’t found an honest way to deal with. I am going to get copyrights for every word so when someone makes a song has to pay me rights.

It is not moral to persecute people as thefts when they have already paid their internet connection, their equipment, and everything related to get to the point to be able to download a song.

It is time for those parasites living from image marketing to get to work and make really good music they have the face to claim for.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with online file sharing. Most of the music I like are from the 70s or 80s which I bought in cassettes. After all these years they cannot be played anymore. Downloading from Internet allows me to have them again on CD. To me, I paid for the copyright already. There is no way to get me pay for it again.

Posted by David Johnson | Report as abusive

How can it be wrong!

If you buy a meal in the shops then it is your meal to do with as you please.

You won’t see the food manufacturer sue you for sharing a tin of say beans, would you? Once it has been sold then it should be up to the buyer to do with it as they see fit.

They are saying it harms the sellers — not true, in fact it helps the sellers for if it is any good then the receiver will go out and buy the next one to add to their collection.

If this is not so ain’t places like the prison department here in the UK breaking the law for they show films to the prisoners and the prisoners don’t pay and if you read the small print of all films it states quite clearly that it is not to be used for schools, prisons, or other public uses… yet I don’t see prisons being fined or made to pay compensation.

Posted by John C | Report as abusive

record companies claim that file sharing decreases their ability to invest in new music? maybe they should stop giving the managers such massive pay checks,

also since when has any major record company ever been at the forefront of any musical breakthrough?

jazz? hippy? punk? hip hop? metal? all of which were created outside of record labels influence,

this is merely an attempt to control the internet, if they take away our right to share infomation on the internet, when will this spread to other media?

behold a new type of fascism, cyber-fascism where the only army to enforce it is one of geeks, lawyers and the rich

Posted by anon a. mous | Report as abusive

file sharing is a direct response to a complete failure on the part of providers of entertainment to adapt to rapidly evolving technology. i do not think file sharing is morally wrong. i will focus just on the music industry here. people still go see live music, which more often than not compensates the entertainer more than royalties received from purchased cds. the internet has also opened up many smaller bands to larger audiences, eventually putting more money in their pockets (if their product ie music, live show, is any good). the only people it hurts is record companies, and mainly larger record companies. now what is happening, in response to this trend, they form a union and go after potential cutstomers with outrageous lawsuits. they are going after the wrong people. if the record companies want to go after the real players in their current downward spiral, they have three main groups or people to subpoena. 1. the research group of, Leon van de Kerkhof, Leonardo Chiariglione, Yves-François Dehery, Karlheinz Brandenburg, James D. Johnston who built upon other people’s research and developed the mp3. the record companies neglected to see any future in securing this technology to protect their product and let the cd become obsolete as computers became more and more a part of everyday life. 2. is Justin Frankel who developed winamp in 1997, allowing computer users the first venue to organize and play music coded in this new format. 3. (people are going to laugh when i say this) steve jobs. steve jobs brought the final blow to the record industry as we used to know it with the release of the ipod, the first fully functional portable mp3 player. i have a 60 gig ipod, and to fully fill it at apple’s prescribed format of 128kbs with 20,000 songs the cheapest legal way (through the itunes store at 99 cents per song) it would cost me $19,800, plus the $399 i paid for the ipod, a grand total of $20,199. does anyone actually believe that anyone is filling their ipods legally at these exorbitant costs? now ipods are 80 and 160 gigs, even more costly to fill. steve jobs was brilliant because he saw an opening that the record executives did not; how to make money off of all of the people who are stealing music. also, he finalized the shift from cd to mp3 and will make money selling ipods regardless of whether or not people are legally acquiring the data they put on their ipods. the real brilliance of steve jobs is the itunes store, which prevents him from any attacks from the recording industry because he provides a legitimate way (though it makes a small amount of money for apple) to put music on the ipod.

so there you have it. file sharing is not morally wrong. stealing music may be, but people share other things too, things they have rights too. to black list a technology because some people use it for questionable ends is criminal. companies should try and adapt to their customers habits instead of trying to punish them. at least try and punish the people who have really hurt them. file sharing is not going anywhere, and maybe they will realize that when they are bankrupt after they tried to continue to sell something that was obsolete.

Posted by Greg | Report as abusive

I just want to make one quick remark: The businesses that succeed and survive across ages are simply businesses who have managed to reinvent themselves and stay at the top of their game. Record companies have for much too long done nothing but create fictional artists which do not even record their own music and collect staggering amount of money for being the middle man between the production and the artist. The world has changed and record companies should have followed. This is the only industry in which we can see major companies crying because they have not managed to adapt to a changing environment. With this attitude and if it was not for the ambiguous legal situation of file sharing these companies would have died long ago. I’d like to underline the fact to close my comments that most of the noise made in this debate comes from these companies rather than the artists.

Posted by Greg | Report as abusive

Ask yourself this question: How would you feel if you had to take a pay cut, work for free or generally itemize your pay in respect to your hours worked? How would you react? Yet, this is a reality for thousands of professionals worldwide who are victims of illegal downloads. The truth of the matter is most small businesses are struggling to survive to b/c of individuals who think “sharing” is OK. It doesn’t matter b/c they are not stealing anything from an individual it is a big corporation – WRONG.

I am a small business owner who is struggling b/c individuals are “sharing” my work with others. I have had a huge dip in sales and revenues due to copyright infringement.

I find it appalling that one would justify this type of action as “fee advertising”. Would you work for free? How am I supposed to support my family, my employees and their families? Who is going to suffer b/c of your theft? We are! So let’s call a spade a spade and jump into reality. When you download copyrighted information you are stealing not only from the company but from the workers and their families. I hope you are ready to support these families when they need to file for aid from the government b/c they were layed off from their job.

Oh right, I forgot it’s their fault.

I am a DJ in South Africa. Origional CD’s are expensive expensive expensive. And there are only realy full albums available.

I charge about R150 an hour for a club…a cd costs R120 to R200. And I only want one or two songs on the frikkin CD. I can download single tracks off of the internet for a much lower costs, but have to put in credit card details…the bank wont give me a credit card because I am a DJ.

I can easily download a popular track off the internet for free.

Secondly, South Africa takes forever to get the latest tracks. I know what songs I need, but cant find them in the stores. Therefore I do not have the tracks that some people want me to play (as I play in an extremely commercial club). Therefore I am considered a bad DJ. I am promoting my brand as a DJ and need to keep the crowds happy.

Yes the recording labels need to make money, but they are only profit driven. I doubt any of them remember what the reason was that they got into the music industry. Do they hear a song and go WOW that is a good song, or just hear a cash register?

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

I think file sharing is wrong. If you think its ok to download music then shouldnt it also be ok to download books, games, and everything. So basically everything should be free? Thats a nice thought but its not how the world works.

At the same time they charge very unfair prices for things. I remember reading somewhere that less than 10 cents of a itunes song goes to the artists and the rest goes to apple/record company.

I think 50 cents would be a fair price for a song if an artists gets their share(not that a lot of them actually need it).

Most people can’t even comprehend how much money some artists and movie stars have. Maybe thats why our economy is so bad because we have rich people sitting on all the dough. They spend more on a piece of furniture than a average home costs.

I think the honest way to do things is to just rent or borrow whatever you can. With something like netflix you can rent whatever you want and not worry about downloading movies. Try to find used cd’s or be more selective about what you buy.

I think piracy for the most part will end. They have unlimited money and will sue and find ways to control the internet.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

I beleive that these media companys are putting out feeler files to catch torrent users,that said,there are so many files avalable on these sites its impossable for the unknowing user to tell which files are copywrited and which are not,there are program hackers who crack these files and its them that make these illigal files avalable,thay are like drug dealers, most work for these media companys,some are clever board rich young kids that know no better,so why dont they go after those not joe public,yes it`s a new world and a new drug,

Posted by cadeeto | Report as abusive

Im realy interested in seeing the case files though as i know there is much much more to it

Posted by cadeeto | Report as abusive

File sharing is morally wrong depending on what generation someone might be speaking too! In a time of chaos from the globally economy to the music industry that is becoming over saturated on a daily basis. We all live in a time that easy means better and better may mean free for some. Music use to cost the average consumer $10-15 for an Album that they would be able to enjoy in the comfort of their own home. Most listeners who couldn’t afford an album back in the 80’s would just record their favorite song off of the radio station with the radio deejay’s commentary talking over the beginning of their favorite song! Most people liked that they could listen to the song on their walkman cassette player or in their car on their way to school or work. But what most didn’t like is the deejay talking over the beginning and end of the song that they enjoyed. In this case they would just wait for the song’s single to be release and go to the music store and by the album of single released. And in today’s times it is not much different except that technology is way more advanced and now listeners and potential consumers are able to obtain higher quality music threw CD’s and mp3’s digital files without the radio deejay broadcasting the songs title by talking over the beginning and end of the song. This is where the problem beginnings as for ‘Free music’ because listeners can now get songs for free without any interruption which may lead them to not buying the song from stores because they’ve gotten the highest recorded one for free online. And with this option they are able to also share the media mp3 song file with their friends and family at no cost! Most people understand that major record labels will loss but feel that their artists wouldn’t loss because they make their monies off of tours shows, and other marketable commodities with in the music industry that they can capitalize on. But at the same time if the major labels loss money they will not sign new talent because they need to show a profit margin gain from some sort. It is a catch 23 scenario. And this is because if major labels fall out of the picture that is going to help on the financial end of marketing & promoting the new and up and coming artists out there? This causes an industry of saturation of artists who only get recognized on a low level because of the financial gain from music that it gives in this time. The industry will still consist of artists but maybe not at the same caliber of what it use to be because of the lack of money involved in the industry.

You guys helped some of my friends.

Posted by Adam!!! | Report as abusive

Though I have not had the time to read all the comments here, I think I get the jist of what many of you are saying…same say that since we don’t downlaod books, video games, dvdes, or computer softwear for free, why should that be okay for music? Others say that downlaoding is like lending a friend a book or a video game and that’s not illegal is it? The truth is though that musicians need to put food on their plates. And being a musician myself, it scares me to think about the way the industry is headed. In the comment from Ransack Productions, they stated “Most people understand that major record labels will loss but feel that their artists wouldn’t loss because they make their monies off of tours shows, and other marketable commodities with in the music industry that they can capitalize on” but hoenstly, tours and merch wont pay the bills. Unless you are completly DIY (which is hard to get noticed and gain a fan base) you are going to need a record company to help you out with some cash flow. But what most people don’t know is that they expect you to repay that money back, which comes from touring and soemtimes merch. When people attain music for free they are taking valuble money away from those bands that do infact need to repay those record companies. I think in the end this will cause good music to suffer. All those young kids that want to play in bands will soon realize there is no money in the industry (untill we find a way around this) which in turn will cause many potential musicians to turn other ways to support themselves.

So, I don’t know if I would saying the act of downlaoding is morally wrong (like theft or what not) but I think technology has come back to bite us in the ass. We did this to ourselves. And I think it sucks. Untill we find a new way around this mess…the future of the music industry is looking pretty gloomy.

Posted by Kerry H | Report as abusive