Internet Morality

Over the past few decades the internet has risen in popularity. In this modern era of constant internet availability it isn’t uncommon for young people to do things via the internet that they would never do in person. I’d like to address some issues involving internet piracy. In a study done by University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers, 200 college students were asked to respond to scenarios involving shoplifting a music record or pirating the record online. A majority of the students were against shoplifting and questioned why legal means weren’t pursued, yet almost nobody had an issue with pirating the CD. This raises concerns to me about how we view internet laws. To the eyes of the music producer there isn’t a difference between stealing a physical or digital copy, but to a large amount of people digital theft isn’t even a crime. I believe this is an issue of great importance considering how prevalent the internet is in our daily lives.

Intrinsic value is a key factor in how I believe people see piracy. The value of a file of music is technically only the value of the amount of data it takes to store it, which has no set price. Many consider data space to have no intrinsic value, this would mean that the pirated file wouldn’t have any value and basically wouldn’t be stealing right? I suppose that is one argument for why we see piracy differently but the effects of piracy on the media industry are the same if not worse than shoplifting. I say worse because when it isn’t seen as a problem it will happen more frequently and have a greater impact than a socially unacceptable action like shoplifting would have. The action of piracy hurts the people who produce media, which in turn means they will produce less media which will hurt consumers who enjoy their products. A reason why I’m so interested in this is that I spend a lot of my time reading Manga online, which is a form of piracy, and my favorite manga got axed early because the piracy rate in its native country was too high for the author to continue writing it. I admit I am guilty of a form of piracy, however I do not have access to what I read since most of it isn’t in English so it gets translated online then posted for non-native speakers to read. The fact that I do not think that is wrong is proof of the seriousness of piracy in our society.

I’d like to focus my inquiry in three main directions. The first being what would it take for us as a society to see the internet as an extension of reality and not an alternate realm. Followed by why do we see piracy and shoplifting as different things altogether. And finally why we feel safe breaking laws online compared to in reality.  Another possible topic since the overall goal is to improve internet morality would be why we tolerate cyber-bullying more so than physical bullying. There are many problems with ethics on the internet that need to be addressed before it reaches its full potential and I believe these are the most visible issues.

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