File Sharing – an Ethical Dilemma

Written by Arley Cornell.

File sharing is REAL. It’s REAL, everybody. People share their files, and they don’t get in trouble for it. It’s an undeniable reality that you don’t need to read about anymore – everyone does it or has done it.

I am guilty. I have pirated everything from movies to music to applications to TV shows… even software that allows me to evade the GC network so I can find torrents that I want. Although I can’t download them, I can at least see if the files I want to download are out there.

Photo from

Needless to say, there are always ways of finding the files you want. I am guilty of utilizing most, if not all, of ones known to me. I currently use software that is pirated. I listen to music that is pirated. I don’t watch many pirated videos anymore, simply because I’ve been fortunate to have a subscription to Netflix available to me.

Perhaps the most convicting article that I read on this topic was a blog/response written to Emily, an intern at NPR who admitted to downloading at least 11,000 songs and not paying for them. The authors at the Trichordist, an online artist community for a sustainable and ethical Internet, pretty much ripped her apart. For whatever reason, the grace and composure of their writing framed stealing music and applications in a different way than I’d understood it before.  The writer demonstrated the injustice done to musicians, programmers, and everyone else involved with the creation of these things. The author showed how even my new favorite service, Spotify, is actually an injustice – it was created essentially so that the struggling musicians who normally just have their music ripped off completely at least make a marginal profit. Some artists have removed themselves from Spotify’s playlists because they don’t make enough money from it, forcing the hand of the consumer.

This bit about even the free music outlets being not enough to sustain the music industry hit me hard. It makes me want to empty out my iTunes library, which I barely use anymore anyway. Maybe I will… but I have bought a fair amount of CDs and want to actually sort them, not Cmd + A, then Cmd + delete.

As for other forms of pirating, here’s my justification for using pirated plugins and applications: someday I will actually be able to afford them. As of right now, I have no sustainable means for buying all of the ones that I use regularly.

Just recently I switched to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription. For a long time, I used a torrented version of the Master Collection, but because Adobe has made it a more sustainable service, along with excellent benefits to subscribing, I have made the switch.  I now have all the programs in the Master Collection, 20gb of cloud space, and other perks, too. I really do want to switch to legal means of all the programs I normally use. However, it is pretty difficult because until programs become more affordable or switch to more a sustainable, college student-friendly way of distributing them, there’s no way I can use them. And Greenville College doesn’t have all the programs or plugins that I want to use, or practice on – thus, my hand is forced. I can pirate them, get good at them, and then purchase them when I can.

Is it wrong for me to do this? This is my life. I’m suddenly perplexed as to whether most of my best work has been accomplished through illicit means.

video by Jesse Hirsh