Analyzing peer-to-peer technology using information ethics
Much of the ethical debate on peer-to-peer (P2P) focuses on the use of this technology for unauthorized and illegal sharing of copyrighted materials. This fixation has led some to believe that P2P is an intrinsically unethical technology. However, P2P has a much wider significance than the unauthorized circulation of copyrighted material. Scholars therefore need to evaluate the global ethical effects of P2P architecture on society, as opposed to focusing on the specific implementations of this architecture. Several criteria have been proposed for the assessment of these implications, ranging from the effects of P2P on the technological progress of a society to its influence on the development of virtuous interactions. This article contributes to this debate by presenting a new approach, which distinguishes between local effects (content related) and systemic effects (communication modality related) of the use of P2P and focuses on the latter. Employing Floridi's information ethics, it considers whether or not P2P is an ethical technology, in a global sense.