Copyright, Gaming, and “You”Tube

Let’s talk about ethics.

Take a look at the perspective one YouTuber shares about his own experience with copyright and ethics:

You know, ethics – not the law of what we can and can’t do, but what we should and shouldn’t do.  As I dive deep into the legal abyss of copyright law I am amazed by the amount of guessing law abiding citizens have to do hoping they comply, which means they use ethics to follow, interpret, or ignore the law.

With the best of intentions, teachers, students and the average YouTube personalities and webmasters might be plagiarizing or infringing on the rights of others without knowing it. These are not the people I worry about being ethical in society. Their actions may be wrong but they care enough to try to do it right.

I worry about the trail blazing people who disregard the law because they lack ethics, and have no moral foothold from which to make positive decisions to better society. I’m talking about people who are never held accountable by either law enforcement or society. In fact, they are often rewarded through their own success, built upon the backs of others, which re-enforces their unethical behavior.

Let’s talk about online theft.

Jonathan Bailey, author of tells the story of having his poetry stolen and the lengths to which he has gone to regain control of them. The internet is not locked down. People flagrantly steal others’ work and use it for their own gain – which could include earning a paycheck. Society depends on the unwritten laws of ethics.

What’s to stop an unethical writer from stealing great stuff and selling it to card companies to make a living…nothing.

If that isn’t bad enough, how about people who use copyright as means to deter the progress of others by purposely kidnapping their “stuff”, for example on YouTube, claiming it as their own under company copyright rules.  Companies cannot enforce copyright laws, that’s for courts to do, but they can and do enforce their own policies, without evidence of any kind.

Companies with policies, including YouTube,  follow their own rules whether there is any truth to the claims or not. Basically, it appears in many cases an accusation is all it takes to manipulate the market – and YouTube is a market. It’s no wonder we are losing touch with ethics in our society, which I believe to be the bigger issue. There isn’t a law about being ethical online, ethics are a function of society.

gaming ethicsLet’s talk about gamers.

But there’s more. What about gamers?  My disclaimer here is I’m not a gamer, but I’m in very close proximity to several, all of whom are ethical people. In fact, the gamers I know all have content lives, give back to society, and are upstanding citizens, young and old included.

It is common knowledge in the gaming community that outwitting other gamers can include exploiting game rules to manipulate having players “kicked” (kicked out) so they themselves can get ahead. This is unacceptable gaming behavior.

This is not to be confused with gamers who discover in-game glitches, use sabotage strategies, collude with others, or have better gaming tools – which are all a part of winning in some perverted, but acceptable way. The issue is that supposedly impermissible behavior  (ganging up on good players by reporting them in the game so they are kicked out – basically cheating) requires no evidence on behalf of the accuser, and is effectively clubbing the heads of better gamers who legitimately achieve success, so gangs of mediocre players can feel some sense of accomplishment.

You might ask, does this really matter?

It’s gaming. Yes, it does matter, here’s why.

These same people then go to real jobs and do the same thing to real people, who lose real careers, and suffer real consequences. What about ethics? Isn’t anyone paying attention?

Taking gamers out of their games or staying off the internet won’t cure the problem. In my opinion it boils down to good old – doing the right thing; using the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you; or maybe, remembering karma. Society can write new laws, even enforce them more, but until we build up the value of ethical behavior, it may have little impact on our daily lives.

I have many opinions about ethics but I am not a scholar, far from it. I reflect further in a paper produced at Lamar University where I offer other insights on the topic of copyright, ethics and digital learning.

A Reflection: Copyright, Ethics, and Digital Learning