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Forced pirates and the ethics of digital film

Nico Meissner (University of Salford, Salford, UK)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 16 August 2011




With the rise of the internet, the act of sharing copyrighted material has received a lot of attention, culminating in a flood of lawsuits against file‐sharers as well as studies concerning the costs of file‐sharing for the entertainment industry. This paper attempts to judge whether file‐sharing really is an ethically problematic act and, upon achieving this, goes on to propose strategies to avoid file‐sharing and discuss ethical considerations surrounding those distribution alternatives.


The paper limits its discussion to the medium of moving images. It tries to achieve above aims by applying the ethics of Immanuel Kant to the phenomenon of file‐sharing on the internet and borrowing ideas for alternative, file‐sharing avoiding, strategies from practitioners and media commentators and applying Kant's ideas to those.


The paper argues that file‐sharing cannot, per se, be considered to be unethical. While file‐sharing has positive and negative aspects, the proposed alternative distribution strategies, a one‐stop shop and giving films away for free, seem to avoid the negative implications of file‐sharing while not impeding with its positive facets. The paper concludes that, since the suggested strategies exist but are not yet implemented by the commercial film industry, the moral responsibility for file‐sharing lies with the commercial film industry, not with the individual file‐sharer.


The paper hence adds to the discussions surrounding online files haring by shifting the focus towards the entertainment industry as well as by providing alternative, file‐sharing avoiding, distribution solutions.



Meissner, N. (2011), "Forced pirates and the ethics of digital film", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 195-205.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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