Nearly everyday there is news of the legal, strategic, political and other objective aspects of music file sharing - here is an excellent article from the LA Times on the ethical aspects, which is ultimately the foundation of all other considerations.
- About half of the Internet users in the United States, some 60 million people, copy music, movies and other digital goodies from each other for free through online networks such as Kazaa and Morpheus — a statistic that suggests a culture of piracy already has solidified. Said one teenage Kazaa user, "It's hard for me to see it as wrong when so many people are doing it."
She reflects the view of many downloaders. They understand that what they're doing may break the rules of copyright law, but they don't see anything immoral about it. In fact, some even argue that copying a song online isn't "stealing" because the owner still has the original track and still can sell the CD.
....Said Deborah Rhode, law professor and director of the Keck Center on Legal Ethics at Stanford University: "There's a view that no one's really harmed. And that turns out to be one of the major predictors of dishonest behavior, whether people can actually draw a connection between their actions and some concrete identifiable victim."
Plus, the ephemeral nature of online music makes it difficult for some to conceive of downloading as stealing. Philips, for instance, said she would never download a movie for free. That's not acceptable even by her college standards.
What makes music different?
"I guess I don't put as high a value on it," said Philips, whose tastes run from Aaron Copland and Stephen Sondheim to Barenaked Ladies and the Byrds.
Expressing a common view, she said music was "more of a background thing," providing flavor to her day but not a focus. As a result, she said, it's "something that doesn't feel quite as tangible" as a movie.
....File sharing networks are like groups of libraries that invite people to roll photocopiers from stack to stack. To "share" songs on a "peer-to-peer" network such as Kazaa, for example, users simply put them into a folder on their computer and open the folder to others on the network. Anyone searching for those songs can use Kazaa to find the computers where they're stored, then download copies onto his or her PC.
The Recording Industry Assn. of America argues that it's illegal to share or download music without permission because the labels' copyrights give them exclusive rights to distribute and make copies of their songs. That view is widely supported when it comes to users who copy hundreds of files, but some legal experts contend that downloading a few files may prove to be legal under the "fair use" doctrine in copyright law.