Copynorms and the Ethical Dilemmas

Intellectual Property
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Copynorms is a term used to describe the normal socially accepted standard regarding the copying of copyright protected material, and specifically as related to the ethical implications thereof. With the Internet being the main tool for sharing of information today it has become all too easy to copy information and feel quite comfortable with it. Copynorms have been in the spotlight for a couple of years now, especially because of sharing files on one computer with another one. With LAN parties being very popular where gamers download and copy programs from each other through a process called leaching discussions surrounding copynorms have gained renewed interest.

On the Internet one finds sharing facilities such as BitTorrent and Napster where the majority of the users utilizing the share systems do no perceive their actions of copying and sharing of copyright materials as unethical or illegal. Numerous users, for instance, see nothing wrong with downloading MP3 files of copyright protected works. Ethical questions associated with such copynorms are important since legal rules are only as valid as perceived by the majority of the citizens. If it has already become socially acceptable behaviour to copy, download, and share copyright protected material on the Internet through file sharing systems, it may become a rather difficult task to control the behaviour by means of legal regulations.

Although the laws may exist on the books, if not acknowledged and respected by the citizens enforcement becomes almost impossible. Copynorms are not a formal set of rules, but rather unwritten socially acceptable practices. It is for instance, not socially acceptable to murder or steal although the norm for sharing files and copying for instance, games, differs. The users don’t perceive copying of games as an act of stealing or fraud.