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Ethicist Randy Cohen Angers Readers with Piracy Stance

underthedome.jpgThis weekend, author Randy Cohen drew the ire of publishers with his weekly NY Times column on ethics. Cohen told a reader it was permissible to illegally download a copy of Under the Dome by Stephen King once they had purchased the hardcover edition of the book.

Here is the ethicist’s controversial defense: “Your subsequent downloading is akin to buying a CD, then copying it to your iPod. Buying a book or a piece of music should be regarded as a license to enjoy it on any platform. Sadly, the anachronistic conventions of bookselling and copyright law lag the technology.”

Our readers responded unanimously with their disagreement. One reader wrote: “So, if you own the hardcover you should get the paperback for free? Different platform, right? Maybe you can use the hardcover to get into the movie version as well. That’s a different platform. Maybe the audiobook as well? It’s really a deeply irresponsible post. Some ethics!”

Another reader quipped: “By extension, I now feel free to lift printed copies of the New York Times from newsstands, since I already paid for the home delivery.”


Reader Mike Cane put things in musical terms: “I say it’s OK to grab a bootleg e copy but once the *legal* copy is available, you have a duty to go *buy* it, even if you prefer to use the bootleg (which can happen). He is basically stating, ‘Hey, you paid for the words, period, no matter their packaging.” I can’t agree with that.’”

P. Bradley Robb wrote: From a legal stand point, C.D. engaged in civil copyright infringement. Not theft (a criminal act), nor piracy, nor criminal copyright infringement. Just plain ol’ fashioned civil copyright infringement which carries a potential penalty of $750 to $150,000.”

Bear Mountain Books explained: “Buying an audio book is not the same as buying a book. Reading the book aloud and recording it is using the book you bought. But that’s just me. My opinion, Mr. Ethics isn’t really up on the ethics of the situation.”

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