File sharing and open source software

I think our moral sense is evolving as quickly as computer and the internet is. I don’t think i’m the only one who makes sure he’s preparing his tea doing something, anything in the kitchen while the MPAA’s incredibly annoying educational ad plays in the living-room at the beginning of the DVD. No one believes the MPAA when they equate stealing a cow with ripping a DVD or downloading the Beatles.

Our moral sense has changed and adopted to the new media. We believe digital music or video files follow the same ethical rules as Free software: we’ll buy it from you if you make a real nice and convenient package (like iTunes), but it is the service, not the file for which we are paying. The latter should be freely available: because it cost’s no one anything to download it, i.e. to reproduce it.

I don’t think the foundational intuitions of our morality (don’t kill, steal or lie) have changed, but they’ve adapted to new media and now look very different.

The problem is figuring out how to reconcile our new morality with our economics. That however, should not be our, but rather the businessperson’s  problem opportunity.

Finally, a word on evolving morals: there is no right and true moral stance. There are many of them. I do not wish to decide between the MPAA and the PirateBay, though my sympathies lie with the latter – which does spell trouble for the former in the long run. There is not a new morality that must replace the old one. There are conflicting moralities that need to fight it out and see who wins. It is the evolutionary clash between competing memes that will eventually produce a better , fitter morality – though like all things human living, it’ll work but it certainly won’t be perfect. End of rambling.

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