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Law Essay Example: Ethics Behind the Intellectual Property Laws

5 pages
1145 words
Vanderbilt University
Type of paper: 
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

According to the Canadian Copyright Act, copyright is defined as the legal protection of intellectual property, in any medium as provided by the Canadian Laws to the owners of copyright. Although a majority of people understand that printed works such as books and magazine articles are covered by copyright laws, only a few understand that this protection extends to software, unpublished works, and digital works, among others. For this reason, the issue of downloading software and music, alongside digital file sharing has merited great concerns among individuals in the music, movie industries and also those in the field of computer science. Most commonly, at the very heart of every file producing and file sharing sector, debates regarding the ethics and morality behind the download and the sharing of these files from peer-to-peer networks without the permission of the copyright owner, have brewed. This being said, this essay sheds light on why it is unethical to download or share these files without the consent of the copyright holder.

To begin with, for most countries, Intellectual Property (IP) contributes enormously to both the national and state economies. Thousands of industries across these countries economies, therefore, rely on the adequate enforcement of their copyrights, trademarks, and also their patents. This being the case, laws that protect the rights of intellectual property through information policy have been stipulated, subsequently considering it to be ethically impermissible for individuals to download some of these files from peer-to-peer networks without the permission of the copyrights owner.

Besides, many countries have made it clear to its citizens that it is morally impermissible to illegally, download these files citing numerous reasons. For instance, studies substantiate that one of the primary reasons why downloading and sharing these digital files is illegal is owing to the fact that when a software or a particular song is produced and marketed, every individual that is involved in the process has their own monetary gains from the sale of that particular product. The product, is, therefore, protected by copyright law to avoid the copying, reproduction or the resell of these products without the permission of the copyright holder. Thus, individuals who download or share these files on peer-to-peer platforms without the consent of the copyright owners do this at the expense of the monetary gains of the concerned stakeholders, which is considered unethical (Einav, 2008).

Similarly, proponents of the Intellectual property laws contend that it is indeed unethical for any individual to download or access these files without the copyrights owners permission since this would be considered as an infringement of the rights of the Intellectual property. Notably, according to section 29.22 of the Canadian Copyright Act, it is illegal for a person to access this content without the permission of the copyright owner. The law states that it is not an infringement of law if a person accesses the material if they are legally allowed to obtain the content or if the person authorized to access or use the medium on which the copyrighted material was reproduced (Justice Law Website, 2017).

Another reason why it is unethical to download both software and music without the permission of the copyright holder is the fact that this kind of illegal downloading places your computer at high risks of getting viruses and spyware. More specifically, scholars contend that a majority of these illegal downloads are done through the peer-to-peer networks which allow even unauthorized people to share files with others. Therefore, since the illicit downloaders have no idea of where they are getting a majority of their files from, they, in most cases have no way of knowing whether the files are infected with spyware or viruses. More fundamentally, downloading infected files on your computer results to loss of data, slows internet connections and in worse case scenarios puts an individual at the risk of possible identity theft. Scientists have also proven that even the presence of an active anti-virus software will not always protect a persons computer from obtaining viruses through the peer-to-peer networks.

In a similar regard, some countries such as Canada consider the download of copyrighted material without the consent of the copyright holder, as tantamount to theft. Thus, according to the Canadian Copyright Act, the law prohibits individuals from copying, sharing or illegally downloading of files. The law also considers it ethical for the Act to protect all intellectual property and also forbids any kind of unauthorized copying. However, the newer Canadian Copyright Modernization Act includes provisions that only legalize what is considered as format shifting. This is the act of creating and acquiring the same content owned by an individual, in a different format. This aside, the problem with the modern day society is that a majority of people fail to understand the morality and the ethics that surround the issue of downloading files via peer-to-peer networks without the consent of the copyright owners. Thus, in this regard, those who consider themselves to be of otherwise healthy moral intuitions fail to perceive this kind of file sharing and downloading as theft. Many argue that peer-to-peer networks make the access of all types of file easier for all kind of users and hence, nothing should be considered wrong about them (Justice Law Website, 2017).

Based on the points discussed above, it is evident that the unauthorized transfer or download of copyrighted digital files via specific networks such as the peer-to-peer networks is an infringement on the control of the distribution of a copyright holders intellectual property. Besides, since the inception of the Canadian copyright law, different publishers and copyright holders have painted the unauthorized reproduction, download, and distribution of copyrighted material as piracy. This has, therefore, served as a tool that has created awareness of the morality of this issue efficiently, to the perpetrators of these acts.

In conclusion, the topic on copyright and the ethical issues surrounding it is an issue of particular seriousness in the modern day today since the advancement in technology has made it easy for people to copy, download and transmit protected works over networks. More specifically, it is with no doubt that peer-to-peer networks have orchestrated the problems relating to the infringement of the rights of copyright to a point where the criminal justice system cannot handle. The solution, however, should not involve giving copyright owners the opportunity to attack the violators of the law. Instead, solving the problem requires a combination of the criminal justice enforcement and ethics education which will both create awareness on the ethics associated with illegal copying or downloading of intellectual property via peer-to-peer networks and also help in reducing the number of individuals who illegally share digital media via peer-to-peer networks.


Einav, G. (2008). College Students: The Rationale for Peer-to-Peer Video File Sharing. Peer-to-Peer Video, 149-162. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-76450-4_6

Justice Law Website. (2017, June 19). Canadian Copyright Act. Retrieved from

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