The Ethics of Illegal Downloads

April 4, 2010 | 3

None other than Randy Cohen, “The Ethicist” of the New York Times, has decided that illegally downloading an e-book version of a book for which you’ve already paid full price in hardcover is “not unethical… subsequent downloading is akin to buying a CD, then copying it to your iPod.” He adds, “Sadly, the anachronistic conventions of bookselling and copyright law lag the technology.”

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. He’s right. E-publishing may never make paper publishing completely extinct (I happily envision a boutique market for real books, even when publishing is primarily digital, with something akin to prescient nostalgia), but every three-dimensional, dust-catching, bound and beautiful book should include a link to a free, one-time download of same.

  2. A number of recording artists are making free digital downloads available if one buys their CD. It shouldn’t be a problem for the book business to follow suit.

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