Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Government Needs Boundaries

Summary:

In today’s article I read about some more things that the government has been doing in their war against terrorism.  The trouble is that these actions seem to indicate that the government’s definition of “terrorist” is expanding to “anyone who does things the government doesn’t like”.  Let’s take a look at what’s been happening, and what it reveals about the governments priorities.

Analysis:

Today’s article focuses on an event in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks which speaks volumes about the government’s attempt to maintain its secrecy.  The event is that a Brazilian citizen was detained in Heathrow Airport for 9 hours before being released without charge.  This journalist, David Miranda, was detained and questioned legally by U.K. law, but the only reason for the detention appears to be that Miranda is affiliated with Glenn Greenwald, who is in turn connected to Edward Snowden.  Miranda has been acting for some time acting as a messenger between Greenwald and his other contacts, and when he was detained he also had all of his electronics confiscated, which would have contained the information he was carrying.

As I read  through the article I couldn’t help but think about the inherent friction which by necessity exists between the government and the news.  On the one hand freedom of the press is a thing.  The government should not be allowed to interfere with the reporting of news, seeing as how it is the only way the public can often get information.  On the other hand, not all information should be reported, as some intel could severely compromise military endeavors, leading to needless deaths on the battlefield.  This very fact was what led to the creation of the the phrase “loose lips sink ships” in the US.  Reporting too much can be damaging.  So, up until this point, there has been a semi-unspoken agreement between the press and the government to avoid reporting on things that could potentially get people killed, which is a very sensible agreement to have.  The trouble is that the government has grown used to, and even expectant of, its secrecy, and looks to be ready to fight to keep it.

We appear to be entering a new era of reporting, where reporters are finding it to be necessary in the pursuit of professional integrity to report on the government itself, which obviously the government does not appreciate too much.  The reasons for the government’s dislike for the reporting is two-fold.  There is first of all the reporting of information which is harmful to the government’s personnel’s safety, such as military recruits and such.  This falls under the whole “loose lips” category, and it is understandable if the government wishes to continue to keep this information under wraps.  The other side of the coin is when the information reported is harmful to the government itself, as in it affects the public’s opinion of the government’s activities.  The situation with David Miranda falls under this second category.  The leaked Snowden files have more to do with how the government has been getting info than with what that information itself is.  Therefore, the government backlash has not been in pursuit of the safety of its people, but rather the safety of its operations.  The detainment of David Miranda speak out that the government is willing to use its powers not just to protect people form harm, but itself from criticism.

I do, to an extent, understand and uphold the government’s hold on secrecy.  They do need it to do their work, work which does do much to protect people.  But Snowden did what he did because he saw the government purposefully going around the sanctions placed on them.  When this happens then the government suddenly has no way of being restrained, and this makes it all the more important to restrain it.  Therefore in this situation I have to say that I support the actions of the reporters.  They are trying to show that the government is getting too big and independent, while the government is trying desperately to hold on to its power.  The fact that it has reacted so strongly to hide what they’re doing is evidence that they know what they are doing is morally sketchy at best, and that the general populace would not be pleased with what is happening.  Romans 13:1 says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  we should obey the government.  But our governing officials are subject to laws themselves, and if they are breaking those laws then they need to be brought up short just like anyone else.  Even Paul brought up his Roman citizenship when his accusers were doing things which they ought not.  Part of being a good citizen is standing up to a corrupt government, by legal means, and that is what these reporters are doing.

Conclusion:

The government is getting a little too aggressive in protecting its secrecy.  Yes, secrecy is important is you want to keep sensitive information protected.  But if you’re detaining people in airports just because they’re affiliated with people who are reporting on you, that borders on totalitarianism, and needs to to be curtailed rapidly.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to get the government in check before it gets to big to stop.  Hopefully it’s not there already.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Music Piracy! Good or Bad? Does It Even Matter?

Summary:

It’s a new day, and a new half of the semester!  That means I have new articles, and more Ethical Issues to write about!  And today is an especially good day, because I can actually engage with the information!  Today’s article is about music piracy.  More specifically it’s about how recent information casts doubt on the long held notion that piracy negatively affects music sales.  This raises the question:  If downloading music off the Internet really doesn’t hurt music sales (and might in fact help improve them), then should it really be illegal to do so?  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Analysis:

So, there’s this company in Britain called Ofcom.  It’s basically a survey company which keeps track of what people in Britain are downloading.  Over the last year it has found that overall music downloads have gone down by about a third, while the number of people pirating has gone down by about 10%.  This is all well and good, except that there has NOT been a corresponding increase in actual music sales during this same period, or any real change at all in the music industry’s slow but steady decline. this should be puzzling since for as long as piracy has been a thing the music industry has been claiming that it hurts their sales.  But now we have a case where piracy has gone down, but there’s been no change in the industry, which calls into question that position.  Note, this does not in any way disprove that piracy hurts music sales, but it at least gives cause for taking a second look at the data.  But what is that data exactly?  Well, there’s the aforementioned lack of apparent correlation between decrease in piracy and market sales.  Then there’s also some other information which is interesting, which is that as far as buying digital music, people who pirate are more likely to pay for things that people who do not.  This is to say that pirates, at least in Britain, make more money for the music industry per capita than non-pirates, at least ostensibly so.  The Recording Industry Agency of America (RIAA) firmly believes that arguments built on these statistics are flawed, as described in this article.  Granted, even they agree that people who pirate are more engaged with music, and therefore might buy more of it along with pirating, but they see the pirating as being a result of their involvement in music, not the other way around.  So, pirates may or may not be bad for the music industry.  But how does this relate to Ethical Issues?

Well, whether or not piracy affects the music industry really does not the issue. Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  From this I would say that even if piracy were to be found to be completely beneficial, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it would still be wrong based on the fact that the government says that it is wrong.  We need to obey the government as far as we can for want of conscience.  But, on another note, for discussion’s sake, should it be illegal?  Should the laws perhaps change, or the industry change, or should everything remain as it is?  Going back to the first thing which started the discussion, the lack of noticeable difference if music sales, despite decrease in piracy.  The fact, which cannot be denied, is that sales are down, and the primary reason appears to be decreases in the sale of physical CDs.  I think personally that the big issue here is not the pirates, whatever they may be buying or not buying, but rather the changes happening in the music industry as a whole.  The Internet is filled with articles talking about how the music industry is moving from physical to digital, and from industry-funded to crowd-funded.  It is no longer popular for music to hard-copy (unless we’re talking about vinyl).  People increasingly seem to prefer their music to be digital, and artists no longer need record companies in order to become famous.  With this in mind you can say that in reality the entirety of the music world is changing, though perhaps not very quickly.  Record companies have a choice.  They can either change with the musical landscape, and learn new was of promoting and selling music, or they can slowly lose their relevance.  I don’t know what exactly that would look like, but I know it will involve a drastic change in the way the music industry does its business.

Conclusion:

Piracy may or may not actually affect the sales of the music industry.  Pirates might actually buy more stuff that non-pirates, and like their music more.  But the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter.  Piracy is illegal, and therefore should not be committed.  However, the decrease in music sales does need to be addressed.  If the music industry really wants to turn around it needs to take a good look at the ways that it does business.  Music is going digital, and the industry has to as well, if it really wants to survive in a meaningful way.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized