Just the other night, I was pondering what I have taken to calling the “modern media paradox” (I know, it’s not all that snappy, but it works). Namely, if I have purchased one form of a work, does that mean that it would be okay for me to “pirate” another version of the same? Am I ethically in the clear to go find pirated electronic copies of all of the books that I have ever purchased in physical form? Or maybe just the ones that I still own? And what of the recent Beatles remasters? If I paid more than $15 a piece back in the cd era for unmastered versions of every Beatles album, does that mean that I am cool to help myself to the most recent, higher-quality recordings?
Clearly, I am not legally okay. But I’m not so interested in legality. Nothing that the RIAA or MPAA or various publishing firms have done recently to end-use consumers who are downloading media for personal consumption would suggest that I need to be aligned with their legal perspective to be on firm ethical footing.
Interestingly, I am not the only one who is pondering these kinds of situations. The link above goes to an Ethicist piece on the very same subject. Mr. Cohen, it seems, agrees with me. Not that said agreement puts me anymore in the clear than I was before. It just means that people who carry a bit more ethical water than a scrappy, potty-mouthed, blogger/child teacher think in similar ways to me on particular subjects, and that’s at least a bit more reassuring.
PS- It appears that my reasoning can lead to a very slippery slope. e.g.: If I subscribe to Netflix, does that entitle me to download illegal movies and TV shows, provided I only keep within the simultaneity limit imposed by my particular Netflix account?