Sunday, April 25, 2010


OK, you know what I think: Downloading copies of eBooks without paying for them is not only illegal but also unethical. Whenever I come back to the issue of burning copies of someone else's CDs or other instances of violating copyright to avoid having to pay for content, however, some readers viscerally object.

So, regardless of the law, what do you think? Is it wrong for readers to download copies of a book in one format without paying, even if they have paid for it in another format? Or, as another ethics columnist writes, should buying "a book or a piece of music be regarded as a license to enjoy it on any platform?"

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at

You can also respond to the poll with this question that will appear on the right-hand side of the blog until polling is closed.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 620 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

c.2010 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Bill Jacobson said...

Hi Jeffrey

When you buy a book, you are purchasing a very limited license to enjoy the content in the form presented. You are not purchasing the right to download that content in any other format unless it is specifically stated as part of the sale.

People are quick to rationalize that they have somehow earned rights after the fact that they have not in their own self-interest.

William Jacobson
Cypress, CA

kgagne said...

I think it's fair to create your own translation of a product you own for personal use -- such as scanning a book to put on your Kindle, or digitizing a CD to load onto your iPod.

To enjoy the fruits of someone else's translation efforts means making the investment in their version of that product. To do otherwise is still piracy.

Ken Gagne
Worcester, MA