Ethical Dilemmas: Music Piracy

Along with my inauguration to TimeWasterz, let this be the beginning of a new series that brings thought-provoking ethical dilemmas to the table.


“To ask whether a society is just is to ask how it distributes the things we prize – income and wealth, duties and rights, powers and opportunities, offices and honors. A just society distributes these goods in the right way; it gives each person his or her due. The hard questions begin when we ask what people are due, and why.”[1]


“I love the song that’s playing on the radio, but I hear the rest of the CD is awful. I heard that you found a website where I could pirate a copy of the song for free. Will you show me the site?”


If you did not pay for a song, movie or other media file that has a copyright, then downloading that file is a crime.[2] Although this is illegal and stealing, in general, is looked down upon, this is one issue that doesn’t come across to most as a moral dilemma.

“Everybody’s doing it, so why shouldn’t I?”

Say this music geek were in a physical record store and she stealthily slips the CD into her bag. Why does this come across as more wrong? Is it because the repercussions for this are greater? The chances of getting caught are bigger?

If stealing is so wrong and it can be helped, then why do it when there’s the option not to?

“It’s free and I know I won’t get caught. Also, all the artists whose music I illegally download are doing pretty well financially with or without me buying their cd,” says Reddit user, Interspace Alien. I am much, much, much more inclined to actually support an artist who is on the come up or who I feel actually needs people supporting them. I feel no guilt taking a few bucks out of the pockets of multimillionaires.”

Does that make it just?

What’s the right thing to do?

And how inclined are you to do it?

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy or clear. Doing the right thing sometimes even feels wrong. But I’m not here to tell you what’s right or what’s wrong per se; I’m here to discuss and explore real world ethical theories.

So let’s have some fun with them and, hopefully, get a thing or two out of this series.


[1] Three Approaches to Justice, Michael J. Sandel

[2] “Illegal Downloading & File Sharing.” Webster University. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Sept. 2016.


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