Mar 21, 2018
I sometimes advertise sci-hub.tw – the Kazakhstani pirate site that lets you get scientific papers for free. It’s clearly illegal in the US. But is it unethical? I can think of two strong arguments that it might be:
First, we have intellectual property rights to encourage the production of intellectual goods. If everyone downloaded Black Panther, then Marvel wouldn’t get any money, the movie industry would collapse, and we would never get Black Panther 2, Black Panther Vs. Batman Vs. Superman, A Very Black Panther Christmas, Black Panther 3000: Help, We Have No Idea How To Create Original Movies Anymore, and all the other sequels and spinoffs we await with a resignation born of inevitability. This is sort of a pop-Kantian/rule-utilitarian argument: if everyone were to act as I did, our actions would be self-defeating. Or we can reframe it as a coordination problem: we’re defecting against the institutions necessary to support movies existing at all, and free-loading off our moral betters.