Ethicist Randy Cohen Angers Readers with Piracy Stance

By Jason Boog Comment

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.”