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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
In the last ten years, information ethics has emerged as an important area of philosophical and ethical theorizing, combining conceptual, meta-ethical, general normative, and applied elements. Interest in the area has increased dramatically in philosophy departments, communications departments, business schools, information and library schools, and law schools. Information ethics is increasingly influential, in part, because of its importance in contemporary life and, in part, because it is highly interdisciplinary.
Information ethics is now the topic of a number of major academic journals. The last five years have seen the introduction of three major journals in information ethics: Ethics and Information Technology, Journal of Information, Communication, and Ethics in Society, and International Journal of Information Ethics. Other journals that regularly feature articles in information ethics include Journal of Information Ethics, Computers and Society, IEEE Technology and Society, Research in Philosophy and Technology, Library Trends, Science, Technology, and Human Values, the ETHICOMP Journal (online), and the CPSR Journal (online). In addition, a number of major publishers have begun to respond to the growing demand for courses in computer and information ethics with anthologies, including Prentice-Hall, John Wiley and Sons, Blackwell, Wadsworth, Jones and Bartlett, Information Science Publishing (an imprint of the Idea Group, Inc.), Peter Lang, and Prometheus. Information ethics has become one of the most important areas of applied philosophy and ethics in terms of professional, student, and popular interest.
The recent proliferation of venues for publishing books and articles on information ethics should not be thought particularly surprising. Many of the most pressing new ethical issues we face have arisen in connection with the use and development of new information technologies. For example, debates about the ethics of online music file sharing have led academics and ordinary citizens to reconsider the arguments for the legitimacy of intellectual property protection. New developments in information technology threaten privacy in ways that could not have been imagined 50 years ago, raising new ethical issues about the rights to privacy and anonymity. The growing dependence of large-scale economies on the Internet creates new vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, cybercriminals, and terrorists, raising novel ethical issues about computer intrusions and security.
This special issue on information ethics includes a number of articles from some very well-known theorists in information ethics. Richard Spinello provides an overview of intellectual property justifications and the basics of intellectual property law. Herman Tavani provides an overview of research on issues of cyber regulation. Don Fallis discusses the importance of ethics and information ethics to library professionals. Krystyna Górniak-Kocikowska addresses the place of information ethics in the global society and knowledge economy. Adam Moore and Randy Kemp provide a survey piece on the concept of privacy and the justification of privacy rights. Last and certainly least, I contribute an article discussing certain “foundational” issues in information ethics.
As the reader will see, the articles reflect the multi-disciplinary quality of theorizing in information ethics. Some of these articles, like my own, are more self-consciously philosophical, while some, like Richard Spinello’s, are more concerned with articulating the content of the relevant laws. Some take a more formal tone, while some take a less formal tone. The variety of articles here will I hope convey the diverse richness of the emerging field of information ethics. I hope that the importance of these issues to library professionals will be every bit as clear.
It is worth noting as a frame for reference that there are only six major English-language journals devoted to philosophy of law: Legal Theory, Law and Philosophy, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, American Journal of Jurisprudence, and Ratio Juris.
Kenneth Einar HimmaDepartment of Philosophy, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington, USA