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The issue of downloading copyrighted material from the internet has caused much debate and controversy over the years. This issue has been intensified further as more people gain access to the internet. They use the internet to upload and download music, movies, books, and other such items. I have chosen this topic because I believe that it is important, especially in an era of internet availability. It is of great significance, especially to artists, authors, and others who have worked hard to create their work. When their copyrighted materials are downloaded from the internet freely, they do not get the chance to benefit from their work. Those who engage in such practices show lack of appreciation for the artists, producers, or authors’ works. They do not appreciate the creativity and the time that it took to produce such work. This is frustrating, especially considering the fact that those artists have used their money, time, and other resources to create that work.


The internet makes it possible for people to access all sorts of information and data. This is not just limited to textual information, but it also concerns other forms of materials such as videos and audios. The availability of such materials is an appealing option to many people. Artists appreciate the internet because it helps them to raise awareness of their work and they can interact with their fans. They take great care when developing their materials and they go to the extent of copyrighting it. Copyrights grants authors exclusive control over their work for a defined period, following which the work will become public. However, infringement of that copyright can occur when another person or entity chooses to distribute, reproduce, display, or use that work in another way without direct permission from the authors or from their representatives. Downloading of the materials is one of the main ways of using another person’s work. It is immoral and unethical to do this if the person who owns the work has not given direct consent.

Ethical Dilemma

Some artists provide free content of their work to various companies. Those companies place the provided materials on their websites and they make them available for users. They will often use the publicity generated to draw more traffic to their sites. As they do so, they expose the users to other contents on the site. Unfortunately, some of the websites that hold the free content have not acquired the direct permission to do so from the person who owns the work but they have used third parties. However, they take advantage of the fact that the material is free on other sites and they would attract more users to their site if they give them a chance to download the material. This presents an ethical dilemma. Some people would argue that it is not right for such websites to have the materials since they did not get express permission from the original owners. Others would argue that the content is already free and it does not really matter which sites users can get access to it and download it (Dark, 2010). Many people who choose to download content from the internet argue that they are not unethical or immoral when they do so because they are not responsible for putting the content on the internet in the first place. They argue that they used the services freely, since the materials were already available on the internet. Many people who hold this view do not see how their actions harm the artists (Altschuller & Fich, 2009). In addition, many people do not see any problems in sharing the materials they have over the internet and so they choose to download the content.

Theoretical Responses

The consequential approach to ethics is concerned with the consequences or effects that an action will have. One form includes utilitarianism, which considers the action that will produce the greatest good to the most people. Hedonism is also part of the consequential approach as it posits that people should do that which gives them the greatest pleasure (Alexander & Moore, 2012). Therefore, according to this approach, since many people are bound to benefit and derive great pleasure when they download materials from the internet, then that action has to be right. Non-consequential theories do not consider the effects of an action to determine whether it is ethical. One of the non-consequential theories is duty based or deontological theory. According to this theory, people should do something because it is the right thing to do (Alexander & Moore, 2012). They should do the right thing and always avoid doing the wrong thing irrespective of the consequences. Some of the wrong things include stealing, killing, breaking promises, and lying. A person should strive to live by the golden rule, which asserts that one should do unto others what he would have them do to him (Preston et al., 2002).

A person who considers downloading copyrighted materials from the internet a form of stealing will avoid doing so. Virtue based ethics emphasize the moral character of a person. This theory leaves it up to the individual to determine whether an act is right or wrong. A virtuous person will do the right thing. Virtues change over time and in different societies. People are bound to conflict as to the meaning of virtuous characteristics. However, some of the virtues tend to be common and they include justice, prudence, temperance, fidelity, and bravery. Therefore, a person who believes in virtue-based ethics will not consider it morally justifiable to download copyrighted materials from the internet. That person will be concerned about the injustice of the action and this will prevent him from downloading the material.  

Personal Response

I think that is morally wrong to download copyrighted materials from the internet, without the author’s express permission. If I were to buy a book, musical record, or watch a movie in the cinema, I would have to pay for the service or product. That money would go towards covering the expenses that the person has spent in creating his or her work. One has to consider this perspective from the perspective that the author or artists receive a salary every time a user decides to purchase the material. A person would not consider stealing the salary of a person who works in a different sector, such as a doctor or a teacher. In the same way, one should ensure that he pays for any music, book, movie, or game that has been copyrighted, as this provides the creator of the work with his or her salary. This decision is not based on the consequences of an action, since it is clear that many people would stand to benefit. Rather, it is based on doing the right thing because it is right to do so. At the end of the day, the virtues that a person subscribes to determines whether he perceives such an action as right or wrong.


Downloading copyrighted materials from the internet is wrong and unethical. The only way that a person can justify performing such an action is by ensuring that he has direct and express permission from the creator of such work. Even though many people stand to benefit when a person downloads material from the internet, this does not make that person’s action ethical or morally right. One has to determine the characters that make a person virtuous, and strive to live by those characters. More importantly in this situation, people should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do


Alexander, L., & Moore, M. (2012). Deontological ethics. Retrieved from

Altschuller, S., & Fich, R. R. (2009). Is music downloading the new prohibition? What students reveal through an ethical dilemma. Ethics and Information Technology, 11(1), 49-56

Dark, M. J. (2010). Information assurance and security ethics in complex systems: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Hershey, NY: IGI Global

Preston, N., Sampford, C. G., & Connors, C. (2002). Encouraging ethics and challenging corruption: Reforming governance in public institutions. Australia: Federation Press

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