Wednesday, February 4, 2009

So.... What Is Right and What Is Wrong?

Living in a society full of high technologies like today, it is extremely hard to avoid problems of copyright violation. Imagine we are using Facebook, checking our friends’ newest updates online. Suddenly, we find an extremely hilarious video in a friend’s “News Feed”. Because the clip is just way too funny, we decide to share it on our own Facebook “Home Page”. By simply clicking on “share”, we easily post that link through Youtube on Facebook.

As more and more online websites have been created, such as Facebook and Youtube, people nowadays can prevalently and easily share various information, such as video clips, music and computer software, on-line. At the same time, thanks to the high-speed Internet, the whole procedures are not only fast but also free of charge. However, as we click the “share” button, how many of us would really consider the issue of copyrights, or the problem of violating copyrights? From another perspective, if the information is something worthy and needed to be brought to public attention, how do we efficiently protect original authors’ copyrights at the same time? When we are sharing information on-line, for example, when we are sharing music on Facebook, can this be categorized as fair use? Most of the time, we are not doing so on educational purposes, we are not sure how it will affect the market for the copyright works, and more importantly, Facebook cannot be counted as a private place. Is there a standardized way to determine fair use? If not, how can we maintain a good balance between fair use and digital rights management?

When it comes to the issue of the intellectual property protection of software, the situation becomes even more ambiguous. According to what our textbook suggested, neither right-based analysis nor utilitarian analysis (one based on natural right argument, the other based on consequences) have strong arguments. Do these approaches indicate that granting the intellectual property protection of software is unnecessary? Is digital rights management performed by the government reasonable and ethical?

By attaching laws to grant the intellectual property protection of software, digital rights management has been reinforced. Once people violate a licensing agreement, they violate the law. Based on Kantianism and rule utilitarianism, breaking the law is ethically wrong. Since both theories have their own drawbacks and the previous arguments from the two analyses are not strong, are laws granting the intellectual property protection of software meaningful?


  1. I personally think that DMR is unethical. I don't understand how one can judge that intellectual property trumps private property. When you buy a CD, it becomes your property and you should be able to do anything you want to it just like you can with other things that you own. People use computers to commit copyright infringements but there are a lot of people who don't. I don't remember the last time I copied a CD and gave it to someone. The only burned CDs I have are mix tapes I made myself from other CDs. I would be really frustrated if I bought a CD and put it into my computer to burn a CD for myself and couldn't because the RIAA is afraid I am going to let my friend have a free copy. All of this litigation and research to stop piracy seems like a waste of time since it isn't changing anything.

  2. I've always thought about the debate regarding the topic of whether video streaming on the internet is considered illegal. The sharing of videos on the internet, posted on a site, does not technically fall into the category of downloading, but people are still able to enjoy the videos as and when they want to (as long as they have internet access).

    This should deprive companies of profits (especially when exclusive DVD content of DVD quality is posted online), but aside from exclusive content, would that be any different from watching it aired on television? Isn't that how the 'tube' in YouTube is derived? By the fact that watching videos online is much like television.

    I suppose what companies are truly worried about is the control you have over the medium as opposed to watching it on TV. Watching it online allows you to manipulate the media and lets you watch it when you want, almost like a DVD. But could the publicity these freely available videos help generate profit through other avenues? I can't help be wonder if there is a way to reconcile the interests of the public and corporations.

  3. This is a GREAT question. After our recitation last Monday, it was hard for me to determine what right and wrong myself. It seems as if no matter what we do on the internet, we are technically breaking the law.This especially happens on websites such as facebook and myspace because these sites allow you to post things that you technically did not produce yourself. It is scary. I wonder if we will all get dinged in the end or will they revise these policies
    I agree that there should be laws to protect intellectual property but I was confused by the whole ordeal. Who is going to be the creator of these laws and how fair will these laws be to all people? That is a touch question to crack

  4. I think your argument raises several different issues. Firstly, when someone goes to Youtube to view a video clip, no breaking of the law can possibly happen. Youtube functions on the assumption that anything on the website is legal, and it is up to copyright holders to issue takedown notices to Youtube (which they have a record of complying with promptly). Thus, my using youtube to share videos is completely legal (whether it is ethical is different-- I would argue that it is, as the copyright holder could easily prevent me from doing so if that were his/her wish).

    As for downloading software, there is a clearly demarcated line between legal and illegal downloading of software. Any links from websites (like or are legal downloads. Anything that can be obtained only on BitTorrent, for instance, may or may not be legal. Usually, it is easy to tell if you are illegally downloading software.

  5. How many of you use sites like Hulu, Joost, Veoh, Crunchyroll? Joost, Hulu and Veoh restrict access to only certain parts of the world users due to variations in international laws. Crunchyroll was notorious for having content with copyright violations and just recently went 100% legit. That's a lot of content for each company to monitor.

    Should YouTube automatically/actively ban content they know is illegal? Should the onus be on the license holders like NBC and Hulu? Is there room for collaborative enforcement? What about smaller companies and individuals that create their own content but don't have the resources of NBC to constantly scan YouTube for illegal use of their material?

  6. Keith I think all of your questions above prove to be very difficult to answer. In order to effeciently and effectively monitor illegal downloading and streaming will have to be a collaborative effort. Upholding copyright law is an individual responsibility first and foremost and the onus should ultimately be on YouTube because it their business that is allowing the piracy of ideas. YouTube is profiting from their websites ability to share and upload videos. They should definitely automatically and actively ban content they know is illegal.

  7. Let's face it, YouTube would barely be able to stay above water if they banned content known to be illegal. As is the case with many other websites, the illegal actions bring them the views and possibly the business and advertisement they need to stay afloat. Crackdown on the illegal actions would result in failure such as the recent end to Ruckus. Maybe that’s one reason illegal actions online as well as steps to prevention are not fully taking place. It’s all about the money…

  8. I believe a lot of the controversy comes down to deciding who is responsible to monitor illegal content. Should youtube be required to deny copyrighted material from ever getting posted on their website or is it enough for them to wait for companies to request illegal videos be taken. I know certain websites like which has movies and tv shows, gets around liability by simply linking you to other sites that have the video. Should they be held accountable for the links they post on their site even though they dont have the video directly on their site?

  9. As an iPod fan and a YouTube enthusiast, the copyright issues that have emerged with new technologies have been a subject of consideration prior to class discussion. However, the issues remain as ambiguous as they did when I first began looking into them.

    I am a big fan of Gregg Gillis, a mashup DJ better known as Girl Talk. In a single track, Gregg uses as many as 12 copyrighted song samples. It has been generally determined by critics that Gregg's production is illegal, but he has yet to face any lawsuits. He has admitted his illegal activity, but claims his work is a form of flattery. When asked about Gregg's use of their work, artists have supported Gregg's behavior, claiming it is a form of promotion.

    There seems to be so much gray area in these laws when it comes to these new technologies. Of course, I enjoy the accessibility of of illegally downloaded music, and love the work of Girl Talk, but would be immensely frustrated if people were stealing from me in this fashion. The production of new copyright protection laws will be interesting to follow.