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Is Music File Sharing Immoral? A Scalar Utilitarian Account.


Downloading information from the Internet is an incredibly popular activity. Some of the information is used for scholarly or educational purposes, some is used for entertainment, as well as all sorts of other purposes. Books, movies, video games, and music are being downloaded by an increasing number of Internet users. Some of these digital files contain information that is perfectly legal to use and share but a great majority of these files are illegal to download. Recent technological developments in digital and Internet technologies have made the downloading of both legal and illegal digital content very easy and very fast. These technological developments have brought about a tension between two conflicting interests among Internet users. One of these interests drives people to download content illegally and the other interest drives people to act in ways intended to stop such illegal downloading. Much legal attention has been given to this issue in the past few years, but little sustained philosophical attention. In this thesis I discuss the moral issues that come along with the illegal downloading of information via the Internet with a focus on music files. I present the issue of illegal music downloading through the use of a scalar utilitarian theory with a focus on preference satisfaction. I conclude that the act of downloading is in aggregate morally permissible, and further, that the status quo bundle of intellectual property rights (copyright) that protect these files should be removed. Also, I provide a rough sketch of how all people concerned can satisfy both of the conflicting interests (mentioned above) through the use of copyleft protections.



intellectual property, ethics, file sharing, scalar utilitarianism, digital piracy



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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