With the triumph of the internet and sharing websites such as Youtube, copyright violations have increased dramatically. Sometimes those sharing files don’t even know that they are committing a crime. For instance, a birthday video set to the year’s biggest hit songs would not bother law enforcement while it lays around getting dusty on a shelf in the living room. However, once uploaded onto a sharing portal the user, strictly speaking, has broken the law. What if somebody else puts the video online? Is the movie maker to be held responsible? This simple example makes clear the difficulty caused by attempting to define what is legal and illegal in the online world and how one can hold violators accountable for their cyber crime.
A more philosophical question often raised by those who don’t obey copyright laws when they occasionally watch a movie online illegally or download a song is: should we really take pity on the movie and software giants who make it almost impossible for people to purchase their products in the legal way? Labels and studios argue that consumers still end up the poorer as the losses sustained by the industry due to product piracy are compensated for by increasing prices. Furthermore, new artists don’t get the support from the big labels anymore which leads to a decrease of diversity in independent music and movie production. The most natural reply to this would be that most of the money ends up funding the new mansions of an overweight label or studio boss, while upcoming artists continue to be exploited. This argument isn’t going to be settled here, yet it shows the somewhat interesting and ever topical war between the Robin Hood enabling illegal downloads and big bad bosses exploiting the world and drowning in money.
In recent weeks millions of screens have turned black in China in an attempt by Microsoft to send out a signal against product piracy. As a result, the sales of original products of Microsoft have gone up significantly. The rumor goes that Bill Gates once said China could use pirate products as long as they were Microsoft copies, thus implying that the Chinese consumers would switch to legal products when they were able to afford them. Maybe the little man and the big boss are fighting the same battle? Isn’t it true that every fake bag of Louis Vuitton simultaneously advertises the original product? Either way a much more intriguing question is: If I copied myself and then found out that I was schizophrenic, should I feel guilty? And which version of myself should turn himself in to the authorities?