Intellectual Property and Copyright Ethics

Abstract
Philosophers have given relatively little attention to the ethical issues surrounding the nature of intellectual property in spite of the fact that for the past ten years the public policy debate over "fair use" of copyrighted materials in higher education has been heating up. This neglect is especially striking since copyright ethics are at stake in so many aspects of academic life: the photocopying of materials for classroom use and scholarly work, access to electronic texts, and the cost and availability of single-source information technology such as Dialogue, library card catalogues, the Oxford English Dictionary, and a variety of other print and electronic resources. Of course, the ethics of copyright are not only an issue for those of us in the business of education: recent allegations of copyright infringement by Texaco, which regularly photocopied articles from scientific and technical journals for its employees, suggests that questions about copyright ethics may arise regularly for every corporation and business. While the current lawsuit against Kinko's Copies(1) and Texaco may settle some public policy questions in the short run, the legal discourse on fair use depends upon competing ethical intuitions which are not likely to be resolved soon.
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