Friday, September 9, 2011

Ebooks: ethics practical exam

During the first few weeks of school, everyone was passing around ebooks. I only bought one physical book--everything else was on my computer. How cool, right? Save hundreds of dollars buying books, hundreds of centimeters storing books, hundreds of newtons lugging books...great idea!

Someone posted a comment about the books on facebook, calling them "bootlegged." I became a little alarmed: wasn't this perfectly fine, what we were all doing?

I emailed an M2 who hosted a website full of the books. I asked him what the law surrounding ebook sharing was. Here is his response:
To be legal, you should not obtain these digital copies if you do not currently possess the physical book. To be moral, you should buy the book if you plan to continually use it and keep it. Otherwise I see it as no different than checking out a book from the library, and you should delete them after you are through with them.
I stared at the screen, aghast! We can be "moral" while being illegal?? What kind of doctors are we planning on being?! (Apparently, lousy ones who don't listen to all their elders talk about slippery slopes!)

I have now bought paper copies of all the ebooks I use, and deleted all the rest. I hope some of my classmates do, too...but I hate to bring it up. ("Hey, I think your integrity is being eroded by the possession of those e-books. You'd better buy the physical versions for the sake of your soul and the health of your patients." Yeah...that'd go over well.)


  1. It weirds me out sometimes, how people forget that stealing data is still stealing. Earlier this summer, before we got internet at our house, people were just using our neighbor's wifi. I pointed out that hey, it's stealing... I was answered by, "Well, they should have a password!"

    And these are missionaries!! Pirating is just so prevalent and so easy that nobody thinks about the morality of it.

    Plus, the laws about it are confusing. Case in point: ebooks. Now, if you have a CD, you can legally rip it to your computer and listen to it there. So it seems, well, if I own a book, I should be able to possess an ebook version of it legally.

    That is not the case, though. Apparently it may change, but right now, owning the physical book does not give you rights to the content of the book in any form.


    (Apparently, it's still *ethical* to download the ebook, though. But shouldn't even unjust laws be followed if you acknowledge the authority of your government? Gah.)

  2. What?! I didn't know this! I took that guy's word, but that article says he is wrong and that purchasing a book does not give you rights to it in every form available. I need to do more research into the law. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I am going to delete ALL the ebooks I got if I cannot justify their legality.

    (I agree with your parenthetical statement, by the way. Unjust laws are obeyed; Aristotle says one of the definitions of "justice" is what is stated in the law....)