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Ethical Analysis of online File Sharing

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5 Steps of Ethical Analysis

1. identifying the facts

2. defining the conflict or dilemma and identifying the values involved

3. identifying the stakeholders

4. identifying options that can be taken

5. identifying potential consequences of actions

1. As technology becomes wider spread the misuse of it has become inevitable. Some technology users feel that if they have access to data, regardless if it is legal or illegal, they will use it without considering the consequences their actions have.

2. While the participants of illegal file sharing do not directly hurt another person, they cause loss of profits for companies. By downloading music, videos and illegal programs, the respective industries are losing profits. Although one user will not make a big difference, if all consumers started downloading illegal files, soon the industry could no longer function and the industry would collapse. Also, when companies realize a large majority of consumers are using illegal files, they lose their incentive to create and improve their products. Even though file sharing does not immediately hurt the user, in the long run not only the industry is affected by the illegal file sharing, but also those who use the illegal files, since the industry will stop improving and producing products.

3. The stakeholders in illegal file sharing are the file sharers (users), copyright holder (companies), information workers in general (example R& D, developers), and shareholders of the companies, and consumers who purchase the products (legally)

4. In order to fight illegal file sharing, the government can implement laws discouraging file sharing. While there are some in place, these are not enforced as much as they could be, therefore the first step would be to enforce the existing laws more stringently. Also more visible campaigns could be developed to enforce the consequences of illegal downloading. While there are some, these are often played at the movie theaters or are on rented DVD’s, which does not necessarily reach those who download, since they would not be at the movies or rent movies in the first place (unless they are the source of the illegal products). Another alternative to fight illegal file sharing would be to develop new digital rights management techniques. Some companies have started such techniques by putting chips on their DVD’s so they can’t be copied, however some companies have had problems with this. More sophisticated technology would have to be developed in order for such efforts to work.

5. Consequences for taking actions against illegal file sharing can impact both the users and the non-users of illegal file sharing. First, if legal remedy is used more and more people would be prosecuted, which could be positive and create awareness, but as past has shown, unless the consequences are very drastic, people will find other ways to access the illegal media. And making the consequences drastic enough for it to have a large impact- such as making people go to jail would end up costing a lot of tax money, which would make tax payers very unhappy. A more visible marketing campaign could have an impact on a small amount of illegal file sharer’s but I don’t believe it will have an impact on the majority of users. People who engage in illegal file sharing know that what they are doing is illegal, but they figure they can beat the system and not get caught. The “small users” would possibly rethink their use of illegal files, but from my experience those who engage in “big time” file sharing will not quite until they are caught. And lastly developing new technology to prevent file sharing (copying of discs), would be effective in fighting the file sharing initially, but in the long run I don’t think it will have much of an effect- or could even possibly encourage more file sharing. As new techniques are developed to prevent file sharing, products will become more expensive for the consumers. At the same time hackers will find ways to break the system allowing them to continue sharing

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