Imagine having the ability to listen to, read, play, or watch whatever one wanted: movies, games, books, music, software; everything is for the taking. For most people this isn’t just a fantasy. It is a reality. File hosting, torrents, and other websites put all of the digital content in the world right at one’s fingertips. Despite its unlawfulness most people don’t think twice about whether or not they should download digital content. It’s simply not a big deal. However, I will argue in this paper that, to the contrary, the illegal downloading of such content is unethical and that the laws against it ought to be obeyed. I will first present four reasons why it should not be done. After this I will refute five common arguments used to justify illegal downloading. I will close with a final argument addressing the issue from a decidedly Christian perspective.
It would help get to the heart of the question by first figuring out what the problem is not. The problem is not whether there is sufficient legal justification for the downloading of digital content; it is relatively clear that there is none, at least in the U.S. Rather, the question is whether there is sufficient moral justification for illegal downloading of digital content. Hence, when I use the term “illegal downloading”, I’m properly speaking of the type of downloading which is illegal in the United States and violates copyright. It’s important to note that this question can be assessed independently of whether or not illegal downloading is equivalent in nature to stealing.  The real issue is whether the two are morally equivalent, i.e. whether they are both equally wrong.