Piracy Is Ethically Acceptable to Many Harvard-Educated Lawyers, Study Finds

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A study conducted among Harvard-educated lawyers by Professor Dariusz Jemielniak revealed a casual attitude towards copyright theft.

The paper — published in The Information Society journal — polled perceptions of 100 international Masters of Law students at Harvard.  The respondents were asked to evaluate how acceptable they found several piracy scenarios.

The piracy scenarios presented ranged from downloading a TV show or movie that isn’t legally available to pirating music to save money. Nineteen different alternatives described situations in which piracy could occur.

Researchers expected the lawyers to have conservative ethical opinions when presented, but the opposite proved true. Most respondents leaned toward the acceptable point of the scale for each piracy situation, meaning they felt most actions were acceptable behavior.

Researchers concluded that digital file sharing ranked high in terms of ethical acceptability among its survey population of lawyers.

Drilling down and looking at the results of the survey reveals that not all types of piracy were treated as ethically equal, however.

Pirating content because it is not available legally was given the highest score for acceptability. Pirating due to lack of financial resources was the next form of piracy with the highest acceptability score. Piracy for educational purposes also received high ethically acceptable marks.

Once downloading copyrighted material for commercial purposes emerged, the ethical acceptance of piracy began to fade. Pirating to avoid payment or subscription service also ended up on the unacceptable side of the scale.

Another interesting point in the study is the difference between the lawyers surveyed. Those who work in the public sector, or planned to work in the public sector, were more tolerant of copyright infringement. Lawyers in the private sector were less tolerant of the practice.

It’s important to note that lawyers who participated in the survey were not all experts in copyright law. However, the study illustrates that there is a clear divide between the law and what legal scholars believe is ethically acceptable.

6 Responses

  1. Dean Hajas

    I would say this supports the observation that homes of affluence and larger incomes were having the capability of downloading and burning CD’s from the early 1990’s. It’s not surprising at all, that this generation of Legal students would have the same attitude towards Intellectual Properties, as the balance of society. Perhaps when a.i. replaces a large majority of the redundant necessity for legal representation that shuffle large amounts of paper and leaves the narrow window of litigators at the top of the food chain, these same lawyers will remember their unethical choices.

    • Anonymous

      Dean…did you really just make an ethics argument from the high tower of an industry that’s pretty much holds the patent to all those things? whos legal departments pretty much only exist to hold monopolies on means of productivity?

      My god man that’s like hearing a white slave owner being appalled at the lack of ethical standards of other industry’s.

  2. PR

    So you can believe a law is fair or ethical but also feel it’s ethical to ignore this law.

    • Realism

      Everyone love the law and thinks it ethical frank.
      It’s just that those laws are meant for other people lol

  3. Frank

    Would you look at this, actual legal experts not sharing the interpretation of law as an industry worth billions known for it’s extreme corruption. It’s almost like they know the law or something.

    As a matter of fact, the vast majority of artists, muscially or otherwise, including myself (hobby illustrator and miniature crafter) have pretty much the same attitude towards copyright as those Havard lawyers. That’s because we’re not insane and want our works to spread far and wide wich the oh-so-bad practice of piracy accomplishes. Once someone finds a pirated work and likes it, they’re gonna be much more likely to seek out the original and actually pay for it. It’s like test driving a car before buying it. That’s an acceptable practice aswell isn’t it?

    Or does anyone really think The Beatles or The Stones would’ve ever gotten so popular worldwide if it weren’t for people pirating their records? That was literally the only way for people in the Sowjet Union to get their music.

    Also, countless studies have shown that piracy is economically harmless including one from the EU commission.

    So stop crying you worthless parasites and just accept that legal experts, artists and people don’t share yout twisted mind set.

  4. Damien Bizeau

    Thank you very much for this Internet post. Regarding international piracy cases, US Federal IP and Copyrights agencies usually don’t deal with them at all because they are not really familiar with foreign countries’ laws; that’s a huge problem I think.