Is It Morally Acceptable to Download?

Introduction

The world is in the middle of a universal hi-tech revolution based on information technology (IT). But, while spending on IT goods is likely to remain weak in the immediate future, as past overinvestment unwinds, the longer-term benefits for the global economy are likely to continue, or even accelerate, in the years to come. While technological change is an ongoing process, there are periods during which technological progress is especially rapid, resulting in new products and falling prices of existing products that have widespread uses in the rest of the economy. Such periods are generally identified with all-purpose technological revolutions. Earlier examples include textiles production and steam power in the industrial revolution, railroads in the nineteenth century, and electricity in the early twentieth century (the automobile could also be included, but its development was relatively gradual). The effects of such revolutions have generally occurred in three (often overlapping) main stages. First, technological change raises productivity growth in the innovating sector; second, falling prices encourage capital deepening; and, finally, there can be significant reorganization of production around the capital goods that embody the new technology.

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This development of Technology has also helped the availability of Music, movies and software much easier than earlier and it is much of accessible with the mode of downloadable option of music, movies and software. At present, there are iTunes, Napster and other online websites. These technologies made it possible to gain access to almost any musical piece one intends. However, in recent time there is a basic question whether or not one should pay for this online music. On a personal ground, it can be stated that one should not pay for online music or other downloads, like movies and software. To make the discussion more effective and centralized, the chief focus would be on the music business in the internet and the inference obtained can easily be transmitted to the final deduction that would include other downloadable items like movies and software. This is because once it hold true for online downloadable music, it would also be in alignment with the other two online items, movies and software.

Background

With the start of the IT sector and internet, the basic structures of the social and economic context began to change. Suddenly computers were not only a way to manipulate information, but also a way to communicate information. This led to a dramatic rise in the public and political awareness of the importance of information policy issues such as intellectual property, privacy, and security.

A unique union of forces certainly came together in the 1990s: rapid technological advances in the information technology sector; widespread recognition that computers could be used to communicate information as well as process it; the rapid spread of a simple, inexpensive, and powerful wide-area computer network based on non-proprietary standards; and financial institutions ready to fund investment in advanced technology.

The growth factor

The growth of the information technology sector (IT) in the 1980s was an important development for the economy, but it spurred relatively little policy or media interest. True, IT was recognized as a driver of comparative advantage for the US and there were a few initiatives involving industrial policy and military preparedness, IT was of interest primarily to specialists. In the 1990’s, however, things changed dramatically when the Internet became a topic of intense public discussion. Suddenly computers were not only a way to manipulate information, but also a way to communicate information. This led to a dramatic rise in the public and political awareness of the importance of information policy issues such as intellectual property, privacy, and security.

These forces led to very rapid growth of the Internet. As firms and consumers flocked to the Internet in large numbers, it became evident that information policy issues, including intellectual property, security, and privacy, required serious attention. This alone is applicable to prove the public impact of internet on the population. Downloadable music soon came into the perspective with the initiation of Internet Underground Music Archive. This was a free site but this was followed by online music stores like Mindawn, Amie Street, Magnatune, Bleep.com, iTunes Store, Rhapsody or Listen.com, Beatport, Cductive, eMusic, Sony’s MP3 Newswire, MP3.com, The Store and Napster soon came into existence and with a price tag. Thus, the question arises whether one should pay for downloading music from these stores. (Suri, 2007)

Favorable perspective

McLeod clarifies this concept from a particular perspective. He indicates, “You share some things, but you also support others by purchasing their creative work. People will only stop supporting musicians and other artists when the concept of community breaks down, not because of the introduction of a new technology”. (McLeod, 2005) In a way, file sharing is actually challenging the mainstream monopoly of the music industry. Online music without paying help promotes the music of artist and there are examples to show that the free online music like Napster even help boost the music industry.

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Advantages

However, it can be stated that there is a specific advantage of the online stores. As these stores are more easily accessible for the general listeners, “it holds the potential to create an alternative means of music distribution for artists who are often marginalized by the mainstream music industry.” (McLeod, 2005) This is a commendable aspect of the online stores and it actually helps the greater music industry to grow. In this respect, there should be no reason to pay as the online stores act an advertisement agent under such circumstances and it is not recommended that one should pay for watching or listening advertisement. It is not the norm and one should not pay for listing to online music as it is acting as promotional purpose.

Creating the need virtually

It is often stated that the goal of advertisement is to create a need out of an object that is otherwise may not be considered as essential element. In other words, advertisement is instrumental in developing and constructing a need for an object or product. This concept is thoroughly stated in the article by Kuntjara, “By substituting desirable images for concrete needs, modern advertising seeks to transform desire into necessity“. (Kuntjara, 2001) To execute this essence of need or necessity, modern advertising relies on symbols, stories, and characters to sell products. In this case, the advertisement is actually offering the original product. It can well be stated that human behavior is altered by stimuli outside the mind, but absorbed by that same mind. This absorption must be considered when understanding the human psyche. Advertisement has a tendency to increase the need and create needs. It can be placed in the mode of McLeod. He stated, “This increases the chances more people will pay to see your band when it comes through town (and perhaps buy merchandise), or that a newfound fan will purchase one of your other albums.” (McLeod, 2005)

This is well supported from an interesting work on the subject of downloading music files or movies and software. It states, “July/August 2000 survey found that 86 percent of downloaders sought music they had heard before by artists they were already familiar with. One difference between 1980 and the present is that 28 percent of downloaders reported getting music that they already owned in another form (CD, tape, LP).” (Jones, 2004) This directly proves that people are interested in downloading music that is otherwise available in the open market. They buy those products from the physical counters that they download from the internet. Thus, in terms of financial turnover, the online stores are not affecting the music industry in a negative manner.

Counter argument

However, Band points out that there is a chance of collateral damage and this is regarded as unintentional but the motive could be otherwise. There is a certain context of piracy over the whole issue and if the issue of piracy is established in the end, it is justified that the mass should avoid paying for these sites on ethical grounds. Thus, if it is argued that one should not pay the online music stores in order to listen to music it cannot be denied as probable fallacy. (Band, 2006)

Ethical justification of downloading

There are other additional factors for downloading music, movies and software and not paying for these online items. One of the chief reasons is that there is no buyer’s protection at all. There too many online music stores that offers music in a single format of audio. There are several numbers that are not available in MP3 format, which is the most common format from the point of view of the user. Even if there is MP3 format available it is very common that the file is recorded and stored in a lower bit format and lower bit encoding. This makes the store possible to make room for a huge number of files in a limited space but the user’s value for money is a complete waste. This is a factor of quality even after paying thus, it is logical to stop paying at all. This would not force the stores to replace the older files with higher bit encoded files but that would definitely be a save of money which otherwise is not refundable if quality of music is bad. (Dai, 2006)

Low service at online stores

Problems are multiple. In many stores, the music available can only played on specified devices. This even happens in the case of same service songs and different service song inaccessibility is a very common factor. Again, in these cases, the amount paid is not refundable and the money is completely wasted. It is a method of making or forcing the customer to buy a specific device in order to listen to music downloaded. This is unethical and there is no way to defend this issue. However, under such conditions it is better not to engage in a paying procedure and this is enough reason not to pay for online downloadable music.

Low quality

On top of all problems there are others too where after one pays the price of music finds it impossible to listen to the music. One such case is the restriction rule on the basic of geographical regions. This information is not provided in the initial stages or during the stages of payment procedures. Once the payment is made and the user is trying to download the music file only then the problem is realized. At that point there remains no way to retrieve the amount already paid.

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It should be mentioned that the only thing growing faster than online music stores is the publicity of these stores. Music being one among the world’s ancient unremitting civilization signs has always been a fundamental part of human nature and it influences the rest of the world with its emotional intelligence and self-reliance. Emotionally speaking, this form of art, music, provides an insight of the human mind and the application of the online music stores convey darker side of technology that is proving to be harmful for the users and makers, at least economically.

No comparison with physical stores

Additionally, the music files sold on the online music stores are never comparable to the quality of files available in CD audio format. Unlike audio CD, there are no liner notes or artwork available in these online stores. The copyright restriction also limits the catalogues and some of the much-wanted numbers are not available in an online music store. Similarly, additional features like bonus tracks, as available in CD audio, are never available in an online music store.

Conclusion

Science is the marvel of the present world and modern technologies are application of science to fulfill man’s long cherished dreams to control and manipulate the forces of nature for his relevance. This is the sum total of public perception of the internet. However, at the same time it is also very true that blessings of science depends upon its application. Let us take the example of a bamboo stick, which can be used to make a flute, but the same bamboo stick can also be used to bit a person to death. Modern scientific equipments like computer and internet has no doubt improved living conditions of man and made day-to-day life more comfortable. These devices eased our working conditions, saving time and money and energy, facilitated remote communications, bringing the whole world under one roof, at the same time entertaining and educating us, keeping us informed about all currant affairs, facts and events occurring through out the globe, have proved to be a boon on human life. However, as the famous saying good and bad is sides of the same coin, electronic devices, the outputs of modern technology also cast many adverse effects on human life. But in case of downloadable items on the web like music, movies and software, there is no such blatantly defined disadvantages and all parties, producers and consumers seem to enjoy the fruit of this technology at the same time and both can consider themselves to be gainer.

All these make the aspect of value for money in a much undesirable mode. The bottom-line becomes evident that one is not getting enough out of the money paid to the site. This is an unwanted condition and if there is no value for money why pays for it in the first place at all. (Biswas, 2005) Thus, it is obvious that we should not pay from music downloaded from online stores. There are people who do not pay as they use different means of technology to avoid paying and one agrees with them at least when the context of online music (or movies and software) is taken into consideration. Thus, it is completely ethical to download music, movies and software from online sites.

Argument Map
Argument Map

References

Band, J. (2006) Copyright Paradox. Web.

Biswas, D. (2005). The diagnostic role of signals in the context of perceived risks in online shopping: Do signals matter more on the Web? Journal of Interactive Marketing 18(3), 30-45.

Dai, Y. (2006). Capacity allocation with traditional and Internet channels. Naval Research Logistics 53(8), 772-787

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Jones, S. (2004). Music Downloading and Listening: Findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Popular music and society 27(2),.

Kuntjara, E. (2001). Beauty and the Beast: Images of Women in Advertisements. Nirmana 3(2), 97-106. Web.

McLeod, K. (2005). Challenge to the Major Label Music Monopoly. Popular Music and Society 28(4), 521–531. Web.

Suri, R. (2007). Price communications in online and print coupons: An empirical investigation. Journal of Interactive Marketing 18(4), 74-86.

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