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Piracy is Ethically Acceptable For Many Harvard Lawyers, Research Finds

Most people know all too well that it’s against the law to share a pirated copy of a movie or TV-show. Law and ethics are not always in sync. Not even among those who are schooled as lawyers. From a report: This is the conclusion of an intriguing new study conducted among Harvard lawyers by Prof. Dariusz Jemielniak and Dr. Jerome Hergueux. The research, published in The Information Society journal, found that many lawyers believe that casual piracy is ethically acceptable. The researchers polled the perceptions of more than 100 international Masters of Law (LL.M.) students at Harvard, who all have a law degree. They were asked to evaluate how acceptable various piracy scenarios are, on a five-point scale going from very unacceptable to very acceptable.

The piracy scenarios ranged from downloading a TV-show or movie which isn’t legally available, through pirating music to simply save money, to downloading content for educational or even commercial purposes. In total, 19 different alternatives were presented. While the researchers expected that lawyers would have conservative ethical positions when it comes to piracy, the opposite was true. The average of all answers was 3.23, which means that it leans toward the “acceptable” point of the scale. “We find that digital file sharing ranks relatively high in terms of ethical acceptability among our population of lawyers — with the only notable exception being infringing copyright with a commercial purpose,” the researchers conclude.


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