Monday, September 16, 2013

Part 200 - I Stole It All

As I walked, I noticed that the trail paralleled an old wagon road called the Old Wagon Trail.  It led to the first camp called Bridge Creek Campground, and here, just inside the campground, which was relatively large, was Joker sitting on a picnic table.

I walked over to the picnic table and sat down next to him.  He was alternately looking at his maps and his smartphone, and I could tell he was someone who was fully engaged with his electronic gadgets. After back-and-forth conversation, mostly with me asking questions, he said he couldn’t live without listening to music 24/7.  He told me he had numerous games, movies, and TV reruns downloaded onto his smartphone, and that once in camp and in his tent, he would spend several hours playing games or watching a movie on the small monitor screen.

After getting this explanation from him about his phone, I asked him to show me his iPod, which was about the same size of his smartphone.  Personally, I’m not really up to speed with electronic gadgets – it’s a generational thing; the only music device I’ve ever listened to, besides a radio, was the tape cassette player I had with me on my ocean voyage, so iPods are somewhat new to me, although I do have a tiny iPod shuffle that I listen to.  I asked Joker to tell me about it, as it looked to be a little more complicated, and with many more features than my postage-stamp size shuffle.  He explained some of the features and then said that the unit would hold 160 gigabytes of information, which didn’t really compute with me.  He continued by saying that he had more music and books on tape downloaded into the iPod than he would ever be able to listen to while on the trail.

Now I knew there was a cost to downloading music and books on tape to an electronic device such as an iPod, and naively I asked Joker if he purchased all that music.  “No,” he said, and without flinching or batting an eyelash or looking squeamish or showing any embarrassment, he proudly proclaimed,

“I stole it all!”

I didn’t know how to respond, other than to ask,
“How did you do that?”

He told me about a file-sharing website that a user can link to, and after merely registering with the site, has free access to files that others have uploaded to the website.
Joker left, indicating he was going to walk to the next campsite three miles up the trail, and I was left to ponder on his comment,

“I stole it all!” and it hit me hard that there was something wrong with Joker’s attitude.  I sensed that he felt empowered that he’d done something shady and had gotten away with it.
I asked myself, “Is there a lapse here in ethics or perhaps a deficiency in integrity?”
I recognized that someone, in this case Joker, had benefited from someone else’s hard work, i.e., songwriters, musicians, music directors, authors, and hadn’t felt the need to compensate the individual for his/her work and effort, you know, the small royalty fee one normally pays.
How important is this fee to the author of the pirated work?  Other than the initial payment for the story my father wrote, titled This Island Earth, the small royalty fee for each copy sold was the only income my father had to support his family of five children.  It was bad enough when the agent who was supposed to send the check to my father for the film rights to this novel, This Island Earth, which was made into a move in 1955, one of the first science fiction movies ever to be made, absconded with the check.

What is there to say about ethics?  Companies write a code of ethics that their employees are expected to adhere to, i.e., keep honest books for the government; society has ethics, codified or universally understood, i.e., refrain from violence against others; and religion has ethics, i.e., don’t commit adultery.  In essence, ethics are a set of rules that help govern one’s behavior; ethics are black or white, they’re right or wrong, never gray; they’re only made gray by the choices we make and rationalization we do, to justify our choices.

Integrity, on the other hand, is a set of virtues – honesty, compassion, trust, respect for others, that are rigidly adhered to.  Integrity as a set of virtues are not compromised; they can’t be bought, at any price, including one’s life.  Whereas many people can be ethical – living within the boundaries of the law though always looking for loopholes, but lack the action associated with integrity.
Acting ethically is what man does when others are present; integrity is how man acts when no one but God sees him.

It’s unethical to steal from others; my father deserved every royalty payment he was entitled to, and just because someone could download his material without compensating him doesn’t make it right; its’ acting in an unethical manner and without integrity.

To illustrate, in a very graphic manner, the importance of ethics and integrity, of standing up for what you believe in, even if you stand alone, I share a story from WWII about an American Jewish soldier named Seth Goldberg.

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