Ethics and Technology Illegal Downloads Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Arguably the deficiencies in processes and technologies throughout the distribution channel enable the unethical sharing of digital property by consumers in the first place. it's as if the incompetence of these channel partners' platforms, either from a website standpoint with the support of DRM technologies or the reliance on faulty, often poorly designed DRM systems, technologies and techniques create much opportunity to take digital and intellectual property and repurpose it illegally across P2P sites that seek to make all music egalitarian (Lysonski, Durvasula, 2008). it's as if the mid-tier of the distribution channel is leaving the door open wide enough from an intellectual property standpoint to allow for individuals to selectively choose which songs, digital products of all sort, and what platforms they want to repurpose them on (Levin, Dato-on, Manolis, 2007).

When the music distributors, both in the form of traditional forms including music stores selling CDs and non-traditional forms including music download sites, and the manufacturers of electronics equipment have on the one hand the right of "making available" digital assets for sale per their contracts with producers under 17 U.S.C. § 106(3) fail to protect these assets they invite piracy. Yet across the entire tiers of distribution channels of the music and digital entertainment industries the need for more uniformity of process for protecting copyrights is needed. This approach to looking at which members of a distribution channel have the processes most susceptible to enabling and encouraging piracy by a lack of auditability and efficiency is where the legal responsibility lies. In effect the lack of DRM, process and audit controls in place for music distributors and with manufacturers and most importantly the lack of consistency has left the industry with no other choice but to threaten the consumer to attempt to gain compliance (Levin, Dato-on, Manolis, 2007). Not only has this been a public relations disaster it is not a scalable enforcement strategy. The fact that the industry is using DRM more as a means to lock other vendors out of each others' installed bases of users and customers and less about doing what this technology is supposed to do, which is enforce copyright laws (Dannenberg, 2006) is a case in point. Enforcement of copyright laws needs to be across the areas of the distribution channel which has the scalability to make a significant difference in compliance and enforcement rapidly as well.


Copyright infringement laws are being tested daily by the widespread practice of illegally downloading and distributing music. To prosecute the individual is to entirely miss the point, and also to create a legal workload that will not scale over time. The fact that music distributors, manufacturers of music players and electronic equipment that can play music all cannot find a common platform for Digital Rights Management (DRM) is clearly where liability for copyright infringement lies. The use of P2P sites for the unlawful distribution of music has become a fertile area for copyright infringement activity (Banerjee, Faloutsos, Bhuyan, 2008). Yet to consider the myriad of permutations and combinations of how individuals repurpose, share, burn onto CDs and load onto their MP3 players illegally gained songs misses the point. The issue is one of a cohesive, unified standard that is unenforceable across all digital assets covered by 17 U.S.C. § 106(3). The distribution channels many approaches to delivery of music needs to have a unified standard to protect music and all forms of digital entertainment content. What the distribution channel partners and for that matter the entire music industry strive to accomplish is to create an enforceable, auditable standard for DRM that does not require consumers to give up their individual data and most importantly, does not violate the individual rights to privacy as the Sony Root Kit did. Instead there must be a consistency to the execution of this standard so that once music and all other forms of digital content arrive with a consumer they cannot duplicate, sell, post or use as easily as they can today.


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Aron M. Levin, Mary Conway Dato-on, & Kenneth Rhee. (2004). Money for Nothing and Hits for Free: The Ethics of Downloading…

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