It seemed like a straightforward decision at the time—you could either pay ninety-nine cents per song on iTunes, or you could download for free from a peer-to-peer network or torrent service. After all, artists want people to enjoy their music, right? Besides, it’s not like Drake needs any more money. So you pointed your browser to ThePirateBay.org. Of course, that isn’t the whole story. The MP3s you downloaded have value—that’s why you wanted them, right? And when you take something of value without paying the price, well, that’s theft. It is unlikely that you will get caught but not impossible as people are taken to court for copyright infringement and if you are caught, you could pay from $750 to $150,000 per song (illegal downloading & file sharing, 2020). Other variables can further complicate the situation. If you downloaded the MP3s at work, for example, you could lose your job.
What Is Ethics?
Ethics are moral principles—it is a system that defines right and wrong and provides a guiding philosophy for every decision you make. Ethics are derived from the Greek word “ethos” which means a way of living (What is ethics, 2015). The Ethics Centre (2020) describes ethics as the “best option is the one which best achieves what is good, right and consistent with the nature of the things in question. “ (para 4). The best option takes into account Values, Principles and Purpose.
- Values tell us what’s good – they’re the things we strive for, desire and seek to protect.
- Principles tell us what’s right – outlining how we may or may not achieve our values.
- Purpose is your reason for being– it gives life to your values and principles.
There is no readymade way to deal with ethical dilemmas but your values, principles, and purpose can guide you to do the right thing by asking yourself if the decision is consistent with your values and principles, how the decision might impact the organization, what would happen if everybody did this and would it be okay if this decision made the headlines in the news? (Ethics Centre, 2020).