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Ethical issues in the Digital Age Essay


Introduction

It was once remarked that the digital age brings many opportunities to individuals. This statement is true as opportunities abound in the digital era. Nevertheless, the lingering question centers on the costs attached to the era.

There is evidence that with the developments made in technology, opportunities and risks have increased. Although advancement has its pros and cons, the digital era has registered unprecedented opportunities and risks. Hence, it is not surprising that both ethical and moral issues regarding this age continue to bewilder people.

Analysis of the cases

Case one illustrates the element of software piracy. Danny Ferrer was convicted for dealing in illegal software online. It is alleged that Danny Ferrer sold the software products valued at twenty million US dollars for much less since he put them on sale at a discounted price.

Three serious concerns emerge at this stage, the first issue revolves around benefitting from other peoples’ work without due recognition or acknowledgement, secondly, the culprit dupes customers into purchasing counterfeit products, and thirdly, Ferrer denies the original software providers the opportunity to sell the genuine products.

This view is held since it is established that Ferrer sold the products at substantially lower prices. Subsequent effects may be mindboggling in terms of lost revenue to original producers and likely job cuts based on reduced sales.

Worse still, the products sold by Ferrer were further reproduced and distributed to unsuspecting customers. The distributed software had company labels and fake serial numbers. Such aspects were meant to dupe the customers.

This issue centers on copyright infringement, as original producers had secured the brand names used to sell the products. When passing judgment, the court gave a hefty sentence to Ferrer and his conspirators. The court decision was correct since it is unethical to infringe on other peoples’ rights by copying and distributing private products.

The second case gravitates around downloading music files. The first cause of disagreement is whether the music is downloaded for personal or commercial use.

However, the main issue rests on infringement of copyright provisions. As the online service provider Napster alleges, the law protects downloading of music for non-commercial use. On the contrary, the recording industry supports the notion that downloading music without paying for it is an illegality.

Napster thus argues that availing music to random internet surfers is normal practice that is legally protected. However, it is morally wrong to benefit from other peoples’ hard work without compensating them for the invested time and resources. Since the music is copyrighted, it is also against the law to download and distribute it.

Case number three illustrates issues revolving around the use of social networking sites. As the case reflects, comments posted on the social networking sites may carry much weight than anticipated. In light of the case, it is true that what individuals post on the social networking sites could prove fatal.

This underscores the need to take caution while interacting on the sites. In addition, one should take care regarding the choices made concerning whom to be-friend. Moreover, the aspect of cyber bullying has emerged in the recent past as a serious concern.

Bullies on the social networking sites have contributed to suicide as victims who are unable to cope with emotional stress end up taking their own lives. Although, it is not plausible to post expletive messages on the internet, the consequences may be severe as job loss or suicide.

This leads to the question regarding the inherent value of using the social networking sites when the repercussions are that unbearable. The boss has relied on the online post to relinquish one employee off her duties. This is an element of cyber-bullying. However, it is ethically wrong to publish damaging information about other individuals.

Ethical aspects of using information on internet

The use of information on the internet raises questions regarding moral issues. Two schools, the deontological and the utilitarianism schools, best address the ethical issues. The main aspects regarding the use of information on the internet revolves around privacy and access. It is remarkable that once information is posted online, it is almost impossible to control its use.

The focus of deontological teachings lies on adherence to moral duties or rules (Rachels 1998). It is thus critical that in any endeavor, one should make the correct moral choices. Hence, it is necessary to understand the moral duties and know what is correct in reference to existing rules and how the rules in place regulate individual or group duties.

According to the deontological school, following one’s duties translates to behaving morally. On the contrary, failure to follow the duties due amounts to behaving immorally.

The deontological paradigm heavily borrows from religion as it assumes that rules, obligations and duties are determined or set by a supernatural. Regarding information on the internet, the moral or ethical question would center on whether it is right to publish information online.

In contrast to deontology, utilitarianism focuses on the consequences in addition to the actions. This explains why the approach is variously referred as consequentialism (Rachels 1998). Utilitarianism zeroes on the consequences of engaging in an action against the values held. The values often refer to such aspects as happiness, pleasure or welfare.

The idea is that any action should be aimed at maximizing the human endeavors. Using a universal sense, the utility principle demands that the greatest number of people derive the greatest level of satisfaction from any actions engaged. Under the principle of hedonism, utilitarianism suggests that the pursuit of pleasure is the primary goal in life.

As such, the principle holds that an action that derives the greatest pleasure is morally right while actions that deprive happiness are wrong (Bentham 2009). Hence, the question of publishing information online poses the ethical question concerning the consequences. Put differently, does publishing information online help a bigger percentage of people?

Intellectual property

The creativity of minds differs. Exclusive rights are often granted to protect individual creativity. Under the law of intellectual property, owners of creations such as intangible assets like music, artistic works inventions and designs are extended exclusive rights. Intellectual property rights include trade secrets, trademarks, patents, copyrights, etc, depending on the area of jurisdiction (Gantz &Rochester 2005).

Protection of intellectual property is a moral issue. This follows from the notion that the human mind is a source of wealth and is critical in designing ways of survival. In essence, all property is created as people engage their minds. One, who violates intellectual property law, is morally wrong.

It is debatable how moral, companies that use intellectual property to impede progress and harm health, in order to gain selfishly are. In most cases, intellectual property rights only propagate the interests of a minority as opposed to the public. As libertarians argue, intellectual property laws create artificial shortages and contribute towards the infringement of property ownership.

Moral and legal issues with software piracy and its affects

Software piracy is a recent problem that is not clearly understood. A recent joint survey by Software Publishers Association and the Business Software Alliance indicated that approximately thirty billion US dollars in software revenue was lost in 2005 (Gantz &Rochester 2005). To worsen an already delicate situation, it is clear that the trend is on an upsurge and without sterner measures; things are surely expected to get out of control.

Unauthorized use of software has serious legal implications. This, centers on the idea that software providers hold copyrights, which are useful in protecting any infringement. The damages imposed on users of counterfeit products are too high and worse still, imprisonment is a possibility.

Given the heftiness of the repercussions, it is not worth taking the risk of using counterfeit products (Gantz &Rochester 2005). Outside the legal purview, the ethical perspective is equally compelling. Ethics have their root in the principles of justice and fairness. Thus, the ethical question would be whether using counterfeit software is regarded as fair.

Companies that produce software devote much time and large portions of funds to research. After such concerted efforts, the companies are able to develop the software. In light of this, it is only fair that the companies be allowed the opportunity to earn back what they invested in the development of the products.

Put in simple terms, the need to protect private property should be respected. Using the virtue approach, issues revolving around honesty, faithfulness, trustworthiness and integrity emerge. In reference to these attributes, one should be bothered about the participation in reproduction and distribution of counterfeit software.

Several effects emerge due to copyright infringement. To begin with, there is loss of revenue to companies that produce the products. Secondly, governments also lose on revenue since they are unable to earn from taxation of genuine products. Reduced revenues hinder both economic and social progression.

As an illustration, companies making losses are likely to cut jobs rather than create them. In this regard, the people are worse off as they are laid off and few absorbed. The effects of job loss are well documented and overall, the socioeconomic fabric of the society is adversely affected by such infringements on copyrights (Gantz &Rochester 2005).

Moral and legal issues with music piracy and copyright issues

The ethical issues revolving around downloading music are not much different from other types of products. It however appears that swapping or exchanging files online without paying original producers or authorized dealers amounts to infringement of copyright rules.

The bottom-line in this case is that individuals are benefitting or accessing music, which is copyrighted. Additionally, these people do not pay for the music. Worse still, there is an element of re-distribution of the music. In my view, it is wrong to freely distribute copyrighted music to anybody without paying for it or having authorization to do so.

Firstly, music is produced, implying that musicians or artists take time, practice, research and attempt to come up with renditions they believe would sell. This reflects on the element of investment on the part of the musicians. It is also worthy to note that a big percentage of the musicians depend entirely on music productions.

Should music be free on internet?

Based on the evidence presented above, it is clear that those downloading music without paying are reaping benefits of other peoples’ investments. The main problem is that the composers and producers of the music cannot sustain such activities without being paid.

Assuming they could sustain the activities, it is still morally unacceptable to take another person’s property without due process. In simple terms, downloading music without paying is taking somebody’s work for granted. Such behavior amounts to disrespect for private property.

It does not matter whether the music is distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. The producers of music have a main aim, which is to sell. If individuals like the music, they would make efforts in order to acquire it.

However, if most people hold the idea that they would obtain the music free, they would definitely opt for the latter choice. Additionally, as friends distribute the music amongst themselves, the real owners’ market is reduced. By this, the implication is that the free music is distributed to people who would have purchased the original copies. In essence, distributing music freely is amoral and should be discouraged.

Cyber-bullying

Bullying is as old as human existence. However, technology has contributed to changing the nature of bullying, as it has given individuals another platform to engage in the vice. In its simplest form, cyber-bullying is using technology to issue threats, harass, and embarrass targeted individuals. Cyber-bullying is a serious legal concern that has the potential of landing culprits severe punishment (Shariff 2008).

Intolerable cyber-bullying has fatal consequences. As an illustration, cyber-bullying is likely to lead to psychological trauma. This scenario is especially worse when children are the victims of cyber-bullying. Victims are likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other stress related turmoil.

When cyber-bullying becomes severe, victims may commit suicide (Shariff 2008). Cyber-bullying at organizational level is equally critical. Individuals or organizations may post damaging information on other parties’ sites. Such events may affect the reputation of a firm negatively. When this happens, issues of damaged reputation, lost sales, etc rise up (Shariff 2008).

Disadvantages of social networking

Social networking is a recent phenomenon that has taken the world by a storm. However, it is riddled with a number of disadvantages. As an illustration, social networking does not achieve the same impact that face-to-face communication does. As such, individuals use all tricks to fake the personalities they would want to be.

The success levels of how one brings out his/her personality vary but the truth remains that it is difficult to determine the true personality of the other party. Additionally, social networking has no respect for anonymity (Learmonth 2009).

The information one puts out is no longer private as anybody has access to it. This exposes people to security risks. Moreover, the potential for swindling and harassment is real. While it is possible to apply measures to reign on scammers, there is always a chance that hackers would interfere.

It is also observable that social networking may turn out to be addictive. If this happens, then the issue of time and money emerges. Social networking addicts may spend much of their time surfing and in the process neglect other important duties.

In case this occurs at the workplace, victims are likely to lose their jobs as they become less productive. Finally, social networking is discouraging at times. By way of illustration, building a business on the social networking sites, take time.

As such, users who expect to use social networking sites for business purposes need to remain persistent. Although with time, new businesses make inroads, some suffer discouragement and opt out.

List of References

Bentham, J 2009, Utilitarianism, Charleston, BIBLIOBAZAAR, South Carolina.

Gantz, J and Rochester, B 2005, Pirates of the Digital Millennium. Financial Times, Prentice Hall.

Learmonth, M 2009, FTC cracks down on blogger payola: Celebrity tweets rules on endorsements and testimonials extended to social media, Advertising Age.

Rachels, J 1998, Ethical theory, Oxford, Oxford University Press, United Kingdom.

Shariff, S 2008, Cyber-bullying: issues and solutions for the school, the classroom and the home, Taylor & Francis, New York.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Ethical issues in the Digital Age." March 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethical-issues-in-the-digital-age/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Ethical issues in the Digital Age'. 29 March.

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