Do you think this is unethical?
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18-06-2012, 12:50 AM
Do you think this is unethical?
The Moral Philosophy thread got me thinking about a particular contemporary situation that involves making an ethical choice, and I was curious how everybody felt about it. I'll keep the description generic, since it applies to several specific cases.

A popular online publication, X--typically a newspaper, newsletter, magazine, or journal--used to offer up its articles free for the taking. Recently, however, the management of X decided to make readers pay a monthly fee. Anyone can read a certain number of articles, say 10, free of charge. After that, you're blocked from any more articles that month unless you pay up.

Y is a long-time reader of X and resents the fact he's now being asked to pay for something that used to be free. He's fairly tech-savvy, however, and after a few minutes' investigation has discovered he can easily defeat the block. It's just a matter of locating and removing a counting cookie placed on his hard drive by the X web site. After he reads his 10 free articles, he removes the cookie and the counter is reset to zero. It's a bit of a nuisance to do this every 10 articles, but it gives him unlimited access to all of X's content without having to subscribe.

The question is, is Y acting unethically? To put it bluntly, is he stealing from X? A related question is, what would you do if you were in Y's position? And did you have to think about your decision and weigh various factors, or was it immediately clear to you, i.e. a no-brainer?

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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18-06-2012, 04:06 AM
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
What was the question? Are you asking is it wrong to CLEAN your cookies, tracking cookies from your computer, every now and then? Why would cleaning your cookies be stealing? You have a very strange view of things in your life...

My suggestion as an IT technician is to block all kind of tracking cookies to even enter in your computer, using something like Do-Not-Track add-on for Firefox. I'm not sure will it block this particular one, but do try it, if it works, you will not need to clean your computer every few minutes.

No, it is not stealing, it is protecting your privacy and your personal information. 100% legal. Ni ethic dilemma here.

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18-06-2012, 04:22 AM
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
So they've decided to join the throng of greedy money-making corporations.

Would that behaviour be termed as illegal, as in stealing? I suppose it depends on whether you want to break the law or not. If it's not then go for it Thumbsup If it is, is it worth the risk. If the risk isn't high then stuff 'em.

Humankind Dodgy (a total misnomer)
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18-06-2012, 04:30 AM
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
Pay if you get bored of removing the cookie.

You're never going to say the things you want to say.
The things you want to change will usually stay that way
The promises you break outweigh the ones you keep.
Paint upon the wall for the hundredth time.

Jesus Jones
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18-06-2012, 04:50 AM
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
There is no law in this world that prohibits you to delete or prevent any kind of cookies in YOUR PRIVATE computer. There is NO law breaking here, it is HIS PRIVATE property and his PERSONAL PROTECTION, he has every right to delete that cookie, or block it.

If they want to keep track of readers, they should find some way that does not include cookies. I even think that their use of counting cookies is highly questionable legally, because they install it in your computer, without asking your permission. Some antivirus programs mark cookies as viruses... Some firewalls block them if you do not give your permission...

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18-06-2012, 04:57 AM
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
Oh I see now. Yeh, they shouldn't be doing that.

Humankind Dodgy (a total misnomer)
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18-06-2012, 05:06 AM
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
The case for x
x leaves y an option to read for free: X might as well block everything. X is free to do as it pleases with his own information. It is their property. x owns Y nothing.
x realises that quality costs money.
x might be just trying to stay in busyness. No one like's to work for free.

The case for Y
Y has the right of information

The case against X
X has poorly designed security: X is lazy when it comes to securing its profit. If the road is open, I'm free to ride on it.
X created a public for it's product now it's turning them down

The case against Y
Y needs to realise that X owes him nothing yet he owes X something.
Y is bypassing rules
Y might spoil the party for all other users of X.


It depends on several parameters what the outcome of this problem would be (price and quality of the product for example)

I think a solution in this case would be higher transparency on the reason why x does the thing he does. Y doesn't want to be bullied around.

Observer

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Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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18-06-2012, 05:07 AM
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
Don't get me wrong, there is hardly any web page that does not squeeze in some of it's cookies, but nobody can make these cookies law protected. If they want to block you from viewing more than 10 articles, they have to do it on their side, meaning they need to track your IP and after that IP has moved around 10 articles, the whole IP gets banned. Or something like that. Cookies are BS. Their "protection" is ridiculous. Their greed is anything but ethical. I am sure they have adds on their page, so there is no reason to ask more money.

FREE INTERNET!

Smile

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18-06-2012, 06:01 AM (This post was last modified: 18-06-2012 06:06 AM by Hafnof.)
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
Of course it's an ethical question. Someone has produced work that costs them money to produce. They are looking for a way to make that money back and have concluded that a monthly fee is the appropriate model. This is a business decision, and they remain in competition with other players who follow a different model. Either way they are entitled to compete in the marketplace based on a business model that makes sense to them.

The technical measure they employed to apply their business model is ineffective, but you know what their business model is. So should you limit yourself to 10 articles per month or alternatively pay for the content in a manner consistent with their business model, or do you act in a way contrary to the business model where you view content they produced at cost for no cost and in a manner they did not agree to but did not effectively prevent?

In my view the relative effectiveness of the technical measure is not an ethical consideration. The ethical consideration is whether you break the terms of the publisher by consuming more than 10 articles per month without paying for a subscription.

My view on this is that it is unethical. Either change to a publisher whose terms you like better, or accept the terms of this publisher. That's my view. However you could take a pirate's defence and say "Well, you were never going to make money out of me anyway so you haven't lost anything. In fact you may have gained something because I'll be posting links to my friends who are likely to pay." Whether that argument is legitimate or not depends on how many pirates there are, really. If the business is being bled dry by spending money on producing content that isn't ultimately being paid for then a major ethical failure has resulted. If every business of that kind finds that its customers are choosing to view material for free instead of paying the required amount to support that work then the whole industry could be in trouble. However, if only a small minority of individuals are pirates the ethical failure is not so great. If there are legitimate customers and potential customers out there then piracy may as I noted actually increase sales.

Chronic piracy is usually a problem generated by the publishers themselves when they produce a product that is not what their customers want at a price that their customers don't want to pay. A good business should be able to make money by making their content easily accessible and appropriately priced. But right now the whole publishing industry is in transition. They're looking for ways to engage with their customers with the right product and at the right price, but both the publishers and the customer base have maturity issues that have been limiting this. Many publishers are not producing the right product, and are expecting to make pre-Internet revenue for their substandard work. This is not a viable business model. On the other side we are seeing customers who have been able to get so much for "free" on the Internet, funded only by advertising and selling information about themselves to businesses. When the price point jumps from "free" to $25 per month they baulk. Even a jump to $2.50 seems insane.

Publishers need to produce better content, and customers need to start to get used to paying something for the content. Once this starts to happen the price equilibrium will be found through market forces. In the mean time as I noted earlier it's my opinion that it is unethical to be one of those customers who both refuses to pay for a service whose business model depends upon their payment and refuses to switch to another provider whose business model is not dependant on payment. To me the ethical thing to do is either to pay or to switch.

Clearing your cookies, though? That's OK to do Smile

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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18-06-2012, 06:07 AM
RE: Do you think this is unethical?
No-brainer. Cleaning your cookies is completely legal. It can't be stealing because nothing is taken away from it's original owner. Just like pirating software/games isn't stealing, since you're merely copying what's already in existence. It is X's fault for implementing such an awful kind of security system. A simple account based system would suffice.

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