I admit I am on the horns of a dilemma regarding music file sharing: I think it's inevitable, impossible to stop, the methods being used to stop it including the DMCA are far more damaging and dangerous to the nation as a whole than the "crime" itself, there are very real gray areas of what is and what is not allowable under the fair use provisions of copyright, there is currently no viable legitimate alternative available (although the pay systems ARE improving), AND I am not convinced that file sharing damages CD sales.
That's a lot of if's and caveats and mitigating circumstances.
However, upon being pinned down and baked like a pig at a luau (see comments section) yesterday regarding my position on file sharing, I will have to conclude that regardless of all the above-mentioned factors and more, appropriating copyrighted material without permission for one's own use is not a moral act.
It is not stealing, for stealing means obtaining a unique object through illicit means, depriving the lawful owner of the use of that object or income from its use or sale. This does not happen with file sharing because nothing is lost, but this does not make it morally right.
I see file sharing as more akin to purposeful deception, which may or may not be illegal depending upon the circumstances, but is never morally right.
So while I concede that unauthorized file sharing shouldn't be defended from a wrong vs right position - it is morally always wrong - it is not without meaning to defend it from a relative-wrong position, and under certain circumstances, there are enough mitigating factors to push it up close to the morality Mason-Dixon line, if not over it.
With those thoughts in place, let us now take a look at this story about Dartmouth College introducing "voice over Internet protocol" (VoIP), which essentially turns a computer into a telephone:
- This week, as classes begin, the 1,000 students entering the class of 2007 will be given the option of downloading software, generically known as softphones, onto Windows-based computers.