File “Sharing”

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Out of all the cases we have studied this one hit the closest to home. I grew up with file sharing. I have purchased four compact disks in my life. Since I had access to a CD burner and the internet, all my music was either burned from a friend or downloaded on Napster, then later on Kazaa. I am so accustomed to free music that I do not consider the consequences of me downloading music. Regardless of my hypocritical actions, sharing material that is copyrighted is unethical.

I first felt the effects of file sharing on February 26th 2003; I attended a concert featuring the band Evanescence. This was their first appearance in Chicago three weeks before their release of their début album ?Fallen?. This concert was at the Metro so it was very intimate concert. It was an amazing concert, but there was something strange, majority of the audience was singing along with Amy Lee, the lead vocals of the band.

Singing along during a concert is nothing extraordinary, but the band only released one single and their album was not available anywhere. This caught the attention of the leader singer, and in between songs she asked, ?Wow, you guys know our songs already, and our album is not available yet, where did you guys get our songs?? The audience shouted back, ?Kazaa! Kazaa! Kazaa!? Amy Lee smiled and responded, ?yeah Kazaa is cool I guess, only if you buy our CD.? As soon she said Kazaa was cool, the crowed erupted chanting and praising Kazaa. That night I witnessed Kazaa receive more recognition than the artist, I knew something was wrong.

File sharing is an unethical practice. Programs such as Kazaa harm many more people than just musical artists. Kazaa harms, software companies, record companies, authors, broadcasters, film/video makers just to name a few. If one was to look at this utilitarian perspective one would get sundry results. In the short term effects of this case the philosopher, Jeremy Benthem would argue that this practice of file sharing is ethical. This practice would be considered ethical because it is maximizing the happiness for the most number of people. According to CNet?s, 333,001,552 have downloaded Kazaa, 120,955,387 downloaded Morpheus, 68,522,785 have downloaded IMesh, and these are just a few of the programs that allow file sharing. Roughly half of a billion people have downloaded file sharing software. Clearly, file sharing in the short term maximizes happiness for the most. However, if one looks at this case in the long term Benthem would argue that file sharing is unethical. If all the forms of entertainment were shared, the entertainment industry would collapse. This would result in no more; music, movies, software, excreta. This would result in world wide displeasure, or pain. In hindsight, file sharing is an unethical practice according to Benthem.

If one were to look at this case from a Kantian perspective, file sharing would be considered unethical. If file sharing consisted of only files that were meant to be shared the practice would be moral. However, majority of the people that use file sharing programs use these tools as a means to their own ends. Also the companies that produce the file sharing programs, such as Kazaa or Napster, are taking advantage of files that do not belong to them. These companies are taking advantage of a loop hole that is not covered by laws. They are profiting because of advertising while people are permanently borrowing property that does not belong to them. If file sharing became a Universal Law, capitalism would be unable to function. There would be no profit motive for companies, artist, and programmers to produce any new products. File sharing essentially disrupts capitalism and therefore is unethical.

There is hardly any recourse for the companies negatively affected by file sharing. Artists, like Eminem had their highly anticipated albums leaked over the internet. The only response was to release the albums earlier than expected. The band System of a Down had their songs prematurely released on Kazaa, in response they compiled their album in twenty four hours and they entitled it, ?Steal This Album?. File sharing is an important issue that is often looked over. Many people, including myself, do not consider the effects of downloading files. Just recently record companies began prosecuting file sharers. This is an incremental step to reducing file sharing. However, prosecuting every single person that shares copyrighted material is unfathomable. File sharing significantly disrupted the way we use to obtain music and other files. People do not consider the negative effects of the unethical practice of file sharing.