A Case Study on Intellectual Property (George Freestuff Case)
George Freestuff advocates that information including software, games, and movies should be free. He feels strongly against companies who charge too much for such. In response, he and his friends developed Free Range Property (FRP), a program that allows Internet users to share digitized files over the Internet for free.
Running a site such as the FRP is unethical because it can be considered stealing, that is, taking someone’s property without their permission. In the case of the FRP site, movies, music, and other forms of digital media are being distributed without the owners’ permission. This is against deontological ethics, which considers something wrong as wrong regardless of any justification. It has a black and white view of what is right from wrong. For example, a man caught shoplifting food would still be arrested even if he claims that he stole because his family had nothing to eat.
In the same manner, with this being an act of stealing or of the illegal use of someone else’s property, it also goes against virtue ethics, which promotes good character traits. In this case, stealing definitely does not promote virtue as it is an unkind and selfish act towards the owners of the said music and movies, namely the singers, actors and producers. Also, providing a site such as the FRP all the more encourages other users to get involved in intellectual property theft, which again does not promote good character traits.
As an example, if a father always comes home drunk then his children are bound to think that drinking’s okay and emulate this behavior. In the same manner, children won’t have to grow obese if they aren’t always given unhealthy food. In other words, people learn from the example of others and they are likely to do something illegal if they are presented with the opportunity to do so.
Although people like George Freestuff claim that they’re doing it for the good of more people, as advocated by utilitarian ethics, the reverse is actually true. Not getting involved in intellectual property theft will actually benefit more people. It will lead to social, cultural, and economic development as it will make industries thrive. For example, the movie industry is financed by the revenue they earn from the movies they make. They use this to make more movies and to develop better technologies to enhance the movies they make. Without this revenue, it may be possible for the industry to continue existing, but its development will be curtailed. Innovations and creativity will also be curtailed as creators of works will be less motivated to create new things. In the same manner, the economic growth especially of developing countries will be affected us piracy will result in losses in government taxes as well as losses in employment opportunities.
As another example, if we all got medicines for free then yes, a lot of people will definitely benefit, but this will reduce the funds that researchers can use for developing new medicines. We don’t mind paying for medicines just because they’re tangible, but just like medicines; intellectual properties are also a product of other people’s work and should be duly compensated.
The following are some of the things that can be done to prevent intellectual property theft:
- Make copyright laws clearer and more concrete to avoid ambiguity in their understanding and implementation.
- Develop new and better ways of securing intellectual properties such as through the use of licenses and digital signatures.
- Stricter policies from web hosts on how their web servers are utilized by their customers.
- Promotion of ethical values to increase awareness on the negative effects of intellectual property theft, which would make people think twice about getting involved in this type of activity.
Websites such as the FRP should not be tolerated and should be penalized accordingly so as to discourage others from engaging in the same. This will also ensure that the owners and creators of such works are duly compensated, which in turn leads to the industries’ and the economy’s growth. In addition, this would promote good values among the people, especially among Internet users, which would probably be the best solution for curtailing intellectual property theft.
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Veith, G. E., Jr. (2002). God at work: Your Christian vocation in all of life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books