Welcome everyone to Round 2 of the debate tournament. I would like to ‘tip the hat’ to my reputable opponent WhatUKno, and give my thanks again to all those facilitating and supporting this tournament.
Let us begin.
OPENING STATEMENT -
The subject can be broken down into two sections –
"File sharing is immoral...”
“...and perpetrators should be punished under the law.”
It is necessary, for the structure of this debate to be useful to the reader (hopefully with my opponents blessing), to implement some assumptions
here. The question does not infer that the subject matter is referring to ‘illegal’ file sharing. However, in this debate, I will assume that is
what it is referring to.
Secondly, the question does not state which law set we are using as a context, nor in which jurisdiction that law is placed. Therefore, I shall
assume (again hopefully with my opponents blessing) that we are using a general context of westernised maritime admiralty / statute law. It could
also be argued that ‘Common Law’ applies in this situation as well due to the nature of the crime being committed.
The perpetration of a crime is the main thrust of my argument here – the question posits that illegal file-sharing is immoral, and that punishment
under law is necessary. By the very nature of the question, it is evident that illegal file-sharing carries with it a criminal charge in any western
Illegal file sharing is a crime that usually falls under laws regarding copyright infringement, and the theft of intellectual capital or intangible
products. In the UK, where I live, the specific act of parliament can be found here –
The above is a statutory act of parliament covering this sort of crime, but the crime does also fall into the realm of common law. Because the act of
illegally copying a file is in reality a theft, it is a breach of a common law held in codified form (as a particular branch of law) since Babylonian
times. The version most commonly cited in modern times originates in recognisable form from the version associated with Magna Carta in England, in
the mid 11th century. In a nutshell, causing damage to or loss of someone’s possession is a breach of their rights as a common man / woman.
The statute act above; and others like it, only detail and embellish on this common law in this regard.
The subject of Morality –
An important argument in this debate is that of morality. Rhetorically, is committing a crime against the law of the land immoral? This excellent
article discusses morality and its boundaries –
Eloquently, the article suggests that there is a ‘common’ morality, and what can only be described as a ‘situational’ morality. Both are
fluid, and subject to change in line with particular stimuli.
A code of laws is generally created to safeguard the coherency and viability of any given society. A society’s moral code often forms the basis for
this. Therefore, any society that morally frowns upon the stealing of one entities possession by another, will include this moral ‘ethic’ into
its’ code of laws.
Most societies globally have this moral imperative, as well as a legal version in their code of laws. By proxy, this implies that illegal file
sharing (theft, copyright infringement) is in contravention of the law, of the moral ‘ethic’ and as such is IMMORAL.
The only possibility, in which this may not be the case, is if the ‘situational’ morality overrode the ‘common’ morality – for example, the
leaking of UK MP’s expenses to newspapers recently was an act of replication of files that is technically unlawful, but not ‘commonly’ immoral.
This shows that morality can override law – and as such adjudication would be required.
In the wider scheme of things however, this is rare. The norm is for ‘piracy’ to take place when discussing illegal file-sharing. People do not
wish to pay for, be inconvenienced or burdened by legitimately acquiring files. “If it’s free we’ll take it, it doesn’t matter what it
This document shows this quite starkly – (16% of internet users purportedly pirated material in 2008!)
That’s a lot of crime to punish!
In short, file-sharing IS technically immoral, and as such purveyors of file-sharing activities and efforts should be punished by the law –
most however, are not. The reality of doing this is simply not practical, morality in the real world means very little.
I wish my opponent the very best in his opening statement, I now concede the floor.