Is it morally wrong to copy CD’s downloaded from the web or borrowed from a friend? The fight over music piracy and file sharing is becoming brutal and getting out of control. A large segment of the population would readily agree that pirated music is stolen music, only because that’s what they’ve read or heard in the media.Arguably, many of these so called law-abiding citizens probably don’t even own or use a computer, much less know how to create a digital copy of a song; yet they make claims and argue points daily just as lawyers do in court.

In order to make your own decision about whether or not it is morally wrong to take part in illegal downloading or file sharing and to better understand music piracy, we will look at Utilitarian and Deontological considerations as well as my own personal views and beliefs about this subject.The population views downloading and file sharing as a socially acceptable practice, while the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Justice Department stand against media piracy. According to Jeremy Bentham and, later, John Stuart Mill the Utilitarianism view suggests that an action is right if it maximizes happiness for the greatest number of people over the long term. When we try to relate this view to media piracy and file sharing it is difficult to find happiness when people are being sued every day.

According to George Ziemann, “the dollar value of all music product shipments decreased from $14. 3 billion in 2000 to $13. 7 billion in 2001” (Ziemann, 2002). He reported the RIAA lost 4. 1 percent in revenue over the span of one year.

Ultimately, downloading media saved consumers $600K and potentially maximized happiness for a large portion of the world’s populace. So how does this correlate with the Deontological view? The Deontological view addresses the moral nature of the action itself. An example would be illegally downloading media from the internet or copying a CD borrowed from a friend or co-worker.This view assesses the rights people have and what duties might go along with them without consideration given to consequences. Most of the populace believes we have the right to lend out CD’s or other media previously purchased legally and those borrowing would have the duty not to make any illegal copies of that CD or media.

According to Lucy Temple, “Part of the issue is, not everyone agrees that it is wrong. As my last post on piracy pointed out, everyone is in breach of copyright on some level, we are all in the legal “wrong,” yet many of us believe we are morally correct in minor copyright infringements” (Temple, 2010).As she pointed out in her blog, not everyone agrees piracy is wrong so a lot of them are facing severe consequences such as hefty fines, lawyer fees and possibly even jail time. As you’re reading this, you may be wondering where I stand on the illegal downloading of media and piracy.

Many things are illegal, that doesn’t make them wrong or even immoral. Most people who cite this claim are completely unaware of the RIAA’s very existence.People who listen to pirated music don’t feel guilty when they press play, and they certainly don’t lose any sleep over what they’ve done simply because it happens to be illegal. I think the main reason is this crime is almost invisible to local Sheriffs and Police Departments.

According to Mike Masnick, “Vice President Joe Biden hosted a one-sided “piracy summit”, ridiculously declaring that "all of the stakeholders" were present (despite there not being a single representative from the technology industry, nor anyone representing consumer interests or ISPs).The "stakeholders" were entirely the entertainment industry. And, even better, despite promises of openness and transparency, the press was kicked out so top execs from most of the major entertainment industry companies could talk directly with many of the top administration officials, including Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and others. And, indeed, less than two months later, we have Eric Holder announcing a special "IP task force" within the Justice Department designed to take on "the rise in intellectual property crime.

(Masnick, 2010). Typically I don’t believe you would fall on the Justice Department’s radar unless you were downloading thousands of files a day and I would also like to know when the public's safety has ever been at risk because someone downloaded something online.According to Greg Sandoval, “After spending a year studying how piracy and illegal counterfeiting affects the United States, the Government Accountability Office says it still doesn't know for sure (Sandoval, 2010). I don’t think anyone will ever really know how this crime affects the economy.

Personally, I will continue to purchase my music and other media legally and not lose any sleep on whether the RIAA or the Justice Department is planning on making me their next target. Overall, the Utilitarian and Deontological views show us the nature of moral decision making. People actually make moral decisions by looking either to the consequences, or to inherent rights and duties.