Ethics is an important part of people’s daily lives. It is mostly applied in the business environment. The social nature of human beings makes them apply ethics in their daily interactions. Different people and cultures have used different methods of determining what is ethical for them. Some of the individuals that proposed frameworks for ethical analysis include Kant and Rawl. Kant proposed two formulations, including his categorical imperative, rule, act utilitarian, and social contract theory.
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On the other hand, Rawls proposed the theory of justice. This essay applies these ethical analysis frameworks to analyze an ethical issue from the article, ‘Aereo argues that ruling against it could hurt cloud storage business.’ Using these frameworks, the essay tries to establish whether it is ethical for Aereo to upload TV shows without paying royalties
Summary of the Case
The case is about a company that offers its consumers access to free TV programming. It allows them a chance to stream the local channels without paying royalties to them. The company allows users to stream videos, thus allowing them to access TV shows at the same time. Customers have an excellent opportunity to view their favorite TV shows by just renting an antenna and a DVR. The provision of content from local stations without paying royalties means that the company is infringing copyright rights.
However, in court, the lawyers to this company claim that if the court rules that the company pays royalties, the cloud companies that provide similar services will be at risk. The lawyers say that the company offers services by storing videos that the users can access. However, these services are not different from those that are offered through cloud computing. The date for this case is 22 April 2014.
The case between the broadcast television networks and Aereo is an interesting one. It offers different ways of interpreting the ethical issue. Both parties provide logical arguments on the subject, with the company offering a counterargument that can be judged as being characteristically significant. The ethical issue at hand on whether Aereo should continue with the provision of its services can be assessed in several ways.
My opinion is that the company should pay royalties just like any other company that offers cable television services. However, although the claim that is provided is valid, people might wonder whether cloud computing will be affected by any decision that requires Aereo to pay royalties.
The two main stakeholders, in this case, are Aereo and the broadcast TV networks. Aereo is a stakeholder because it stands as the company around which the ethical issue revolves. The company has made profits by providing services to its consumers without having to pay royalties to the broadcast television networks. This move qualifies to be unethical. The broadcast TV networks are also players based on the role that they play in the provision of programs that Aereo p,rovides to its consumers.
These networks are also shareholders because they feel aggrieved and predisposed to poor performance because of the loss of revenue. The networks also feel that Aereo is unfairly gaining from the provision of services to its consumers without having to incur so much cost as witnessed in other companies.
The Act Utilitarian Framework
The Broadcasts Networks’ Benefits
The broadcast networks will not benefit if Aereo is to upload the TV shows without having to pay royalties to them.
The companies will gain nothing since they are not being paid for the programs that are aired. The television networks pay for each of the programs that Aereo airs. They end up losing large amounts of money if the programs are aired free of charge.
Upon using Benham’s attribute, it is possible to establish that the impact that this matter will have on this organizations is significant. If people are allowed to view the programs on Aereo, the cost of providing the programs will escalate.
Consequently, the broadcast networks will end up losing significant profits.
The probability that such an outcome will happen is low since the case against the company is not going their (broadcast networks) way. If Aereo uploads the TV shows without having to pay royalties, the networks will experience no pleasure. The only likely result is a loss from such an event. The number of people who are involved is large, and hence, the other key issue that is likely to cause loss of profitability for these companies. Aereo stands to gain from the idea of uploading the TV shows without having to pay royalties.
Each of the subscribers pays a subscription fee to the company while the company obtains the programs without paying any charges. The number of subscribers is going to be high, with the probability of the company airing the programs without paying royalties approaching 100%. Fecundity, or its ability to produce more experiences of the same kind, is unknown.
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However, the purity, or the extent to which pleasure is not diluted by pain, is known to be 100%. This benefit to Aereo is not diluted by any costs. The extent, or a number of the involved people, are many since more subscribers get the programs from the company.
Problems Applying the Act Utilitarian Framework
There are several problems with the application of the act utilitarian framework in the above case.
- The case presents a challenge in determining whether the number of subscribers will increase.
- The application of this framework is also time-consuming. The case ignores one’s innate sense of duty.
- As a result, it feels intuitively wrong to air the programs without paying royalties.
Rawls’s Theory of Justice
It is possible to apply Rawls’ theory of justice in the determination of the ethical issue in question.
- The issue is that Aereo should upload the TV shows without having to pay royalties. When Aereo airs the channels without paying fees, other cable networks cannot do the same. Hence, they cannot claim a “fully adequate” number of basic rights and liberties.
- Social and economic inequality is likely to arise after Aereo is allowed to stream these programs free of charge. This act will also not be of great help to the community, especially the socially disadvantaged people in society. Based on the above arguments, Rawls’ theory of justice does not support the idea of Aereo uploading the TV shows without having to pay royalties.
- The application of Rawls’s theory of justice affects the result of the application of the act utilitarian framework.
The Rule Utilitarian Framework
Costs of Aereo uploading the TV shows without Paying Fees
- If Aereo uploads the TV shows without parting with some fees, different costs may be incurred in the process.
- TV networks will not collect revenue.
- The result of this move will be the closure of these companies.
- The stations will have to close down after making losses from the reduced viewing. On the other hand, Aereo stands to gain if it is allowed to upload programs without disbursing some fees. When the TV networks go out of business, Aereo will not be able to obtain programs to upload for its customers.
- The result of this case is that there will be no new programs available for general viewers. The viewers and Aereo will be happy for only a short period.
- In conclusion, the overall cost of allowing Aereo to upload TV shows without paying royalties is unethical since it leads to loss of revenue and reduction in terms of programming.
Problems Applying the Rule Utilitarian Framework
- Since the impact that Aereo’s case has on other cable networks is unknown, it is difficult to establish the effect that the action may produce.
- This analysis does not ignore the problem of an unjust distribution of good consequence, which is usually the case in utilitarianism.
The Social Contract Framework
- The TV networks that are in question have a right to the programs that they offer to Aereo since they (programs) are part of their property.
- Any company that wishes to offer these programs to the public should get into a legal agreement with these networks, including the payment of royalties. Failure to pay is equivalent to breaking the law.
- Aereo should be allowed to upload the television programs only after paying for the royalties.
- Upon using the social contract framework, it is possible to conclude that since the act of Aereo offering the programs free of charge is a violation of television networks’ rights. Therefore, it is unethical for the company to do continue in that direction.
Problems Applying the Social Contract Framework
- The action of Aereo uploading the programs does not have multiple characterizations.
- There are no conflicting rights in this case. The implication is that there will be no result if there are any conflicting rights.
Kant’s 1stFormulation of the Categorical Imperative
The first framework that is used to assess the ethical issue is Kant’s first formulation of the categorical imperative.
- The ethical issue is, ‘Aereo will upload TV shows without paying royalties.’
- From this ethical issue, the maxim that can be developed is that Aereo will upload TV shows without paying royalties.
- After universalizing the maxim, the result is, ‘what if everyone uploaded TV shows without paying royalties?
- If everyone uploaded TV shows without paying royalties, people would watch TV shows from the online platform. If people only watched TV shows online, the broadcast TV networks would eventually run out of funds to operate.
- Consequently, they would go out of business. If the broadcast TV networks run out of business, no one will watch TV shows. Nevertheless, Aereo wants to upload TV shows. Aereo wants to air the shows without paying fees. Will it be able to air the shows if there is no channel to upload? As a result, this rule is self-defeating when it is made into a universal law. As a result, the action is unethical.
Kant’s 2ndFormulation of the Categorical Imperative
Aereo intends to continue offering its services to a host of consumers without providing payment for the companies that produce the television shows.
- The company is acting as a second party to an agreement between broadcasters and the program makers.
- This observation means that the company should be benefiting most from the agreement, without having to pay for these services.
- The act is unethical because Aereo will be using TV shows that other companies have invested a good share of funds in producing. This infringement will constitute taking advantage of them. Hence, this act is unethical.
Kant’s 1st and 2nd formulation of the categorical imperative found the act unethical. As a result, it can be concluded that the act of Aereo uploading TV shows without paying royalties should not be allowed.
Problems applying Kant’s Formulations to this issue
It was easy to create a maxim that adequately characterizes the action of Aereo uploading TV shows without paying royalties. In this analysis;
- There was no conflict between perfect duties or between a perfect and imperfect duty.
- The only duty was the perfect one, viz. to pay for the rendered services, i.e. “do not steal”.
- The application of virtue ethics establishes that the network TV companies stand to lose from Aereo’s move to operate without paying royalties.
- These companies will lose revenues from the free airing of their programs. The result is the closure of their branches. Aereo will also benefit in the short-run, with the networks seizing to offer the programs.
- The conclusion is that the idea of Aereo uploading programs without royalty is an unethical one. One of the problems in the application of virtue ethics is that the two parties are not in any contract.
In conclusion, this paper has analyzed an ethical issue that relates to one company that uploads television programs that are aired by other television networks. The paper has used several ethical frameworks to assess whether this action is ethical. Most of the frameworks have results that indicate that there is an unethical issue in the above case. Aereo should not be allowed to upload television programs without having to pay royalty fees to the respective television network companies.