There is a strong belief that downloading internet content for free is unethical. I agree to some extent that downloading for free is considered unethical. This essay will presents both sides of the argument and then present my opinion.
First of all, some people argue that downloading for free is unethical. There is a common belief that taking something without permission is stealing. According to the common law, theft is considered a crime. In most cases, criminal activities would always have consequences such as a legal claim. Immanuel Kant advocated the use of maxims, personal rules that you use to make a moral decision. He also resisted using people as tools, because he argued that people have to respect all other people. Because of this, downloading for free shows a lack of respect to the publishers and is a form of manipulation. On the academic perspective particularly, illegal downloading academic content, like academic journals or books, is a serious threat. A lot of institutions held a campaign against piracy in education. For example, in 2008, the University of California at Davis held a campaign to prevent the students from illegal downloading. The students who have been proven downloaded without any license need to get fined. Thus, the argument that free downloading is unethical seems to be true because it against both ethic and law.
Following that, other people argue that downloading for free is ethical. They claim that everyone has a right to have access to useful material on the internet. John Stuart Mill would take this position. He stated that people are acting morally if the consequences of an action bring happiness to the greatest number of people. In this case, internet content can benefit lot of people; they can share audio and video files easily. In education, people may have access to unlimited files related to academic subjects, like scientific journals, books and other learning materials. Even so, there is a misuse. Some people download files from the internet for sale and they make it to gain economic benefit illegally. A case in point is the total sales of music piracy in the USA last year were reached more than 100 million dollars. However, the economic loss on music piracy was less significant if it is compared to its total economic revenue. Based on Nielson statistics, the total sales for music recordings in 2012 rose to USD 1.65 billion or increased 3.1 percent than the previous year. In addition, even though music piracy causes an economic loss, the impact is less outweighing. Hence, Mill's position in this argument is clear, as he suggested that the consequences of an action should be evaluated according to the benefit that they bring. Conversely, it is not wise enough to accept a philosophy that suggests people believe that the end justifies the means.
In my point of view, I understand the term that downloading for free is unethical because piracy is never right and it is against the intellectual property law. If people need to download internet content such as audio and video files, they need to purchase it. On the other hand, not every person can buy music or academic journals from the publishers because of its price. For example, access to JSTOR, an online journal provider, is worth at least USD 500 only for a year. Aristotle stated that, things that help us grow and flourish are good, and those things that stifle or stunt our growth are bad. Based on this, we can assume that more benefits can be gained by downloading for free, where every person can have access on the internet. This does not mean that disrespecting the publishers’ intellectual right is acceptable. On the contrary, a specific measure needs to be arranged in order to reduce illegal downloading, like an affordable price.
Overall, internet content has both benefits and drawbacks. It depends on every person to use it as a learning resource, or a medium to gain financial income illegally. Ethical or unethical however, belongs to every internet user to decide the boundary between right or wrong. In the future, I hope the price for internet content will be set at a level which everyone can afford it.