To Incognito's question asking if P2P ties the world together, I would argue 'yes'. First of all, I still think it's crazy to even begin to try to call a network architecture ethical or unethical. If you want to talk about specific applications that employ P2P, then we should talk about those one at a time. One of my favorite P2P apps is BitTorrent
. I use it probably at least once a week to download demos of video games from 3D Gamers.com
. I've also used it to download ISOs of Linux distributions (several times). This is perfectly legal, and in my book, ethical.
I don't know much about Kazaa, but I wouldn't be shocked to find out that a lot of unauthorized music trading goes on there. Of course, at the same time there is a lot of perfectly legal and ethical trading going on too. Actually, from what I understand... the creators of Kazaa are trying to encourage people to use the network for legal trading.
I seriously doubt that there is anything unethical in Kazaa or Shareraza themselves (though, I don't use them so I can be sure). If these apps install ad/spy ware against the user's wishes, then I would see that as being unethical, but I don't think that's what you're talking about. As far as I know, neither of these apps force you to do anything illegal or unethical.
I hope nobody here is falling into the trap of equating legal and ethical. for years (in some parts of the US) it was legal to sell people, beat them, rape them, whatever, and illegal to teach them to read. I don't think any of you would argue that during that time it was ethical to sell someone and unethical to teach them. Ethics
is the study of morality, not legality.
If we really want to have an interesting debate about ethics of sharing files, then I think we should leave network architecture, specific pieces of software, and the law out of it (at least where possible). For history's sake, let's look at Article 1, section 8 of the US Constitution
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
See how the goal is to promote creativity? I'd say that is a worthy goal and an ethical one. So, the interesting question is does sharing files promote creativity? I'd say "sometimes."
Gone with the Wind
has already been created, and the creators were already encouraged. Nothing we do today can change that. Same goes for Hamlet
. Will anyone say that the best way to promote creativity is by keeping the created works locked up in copyright for ever and ever? I hope not.
Ok, let's get a little trickier... how many musicians wouldn't be creative and productive unless they were going to get filthy rich doing it? I haven't heard a single writer, author, actor, musician, film maker, etc... say that they are doing it to get rich. Instead, they do it because the love to. Of course, if they can't make any money then they'd have to do something else to make money, and wouldn't be able to produce creative works, so there is an obvious advantage in paying people to create new things.
Going another step... let's say some kid downloads Photoshop on Kazaa. The kid isn't rich and there isn't a chance in hell of him/her buying the full version for $500 or whatever it is. The reality of the situation is that Adobe could make $0 and the kid wouldn't have Photoshop, or Adobe could make $0 and the kid would have Photoshop. So, which situation promotes creativity more? It's hard to say, but probably the one where the kid gets the software for free. I'd say that for someone to copy something for free that they would not pay for otherwise (even if it meant not having it), is ethical.
I'm sure we can all come up with situations where copying a work would demote creativity, so I don't think I need to give examples here (think struggling author not being able to sell books). We should all keep in mind that the ethical test with regard to copying should be: does this action promote or demote creativity? In other words: does it tend to add something of value to our society and culture or not?