As I’ve said before, I try to follow copyright law as much as I can. I figure that by respecting the law we have now, I’m in safer ethical space to argue for changes in it. (I don’t judge, though. I think this highly contested area is something each person has to navigate themselves.)
My dilemma today, though, goes to a bit of doohickery I picked up at the mall yesterday. I’ve been eyeing this particular purchase for years, and finally decided I couldn’t do without. I bought a self-contained video game thingy that hooks directly up to the television. Unlike the Pac-Man/Galaga one that I have, though, this one is kinda sketchy. First, it has 76,000 games on it. Admittedly, many seem to be repeats or alternate versions of games, but the beginning menu that lets you select games does have 76000 listings. It also has a number of games I’m sure haven’t been added legally: Super Mario Brothers, Contra, Dig-Dug, Millipede, Mario Brothers, and many more.
So my question is where the ethics for verifying copyright lie on the consumer’s part. When I buy something from someone online, I can tell from the site and method whether the product is likely to be pirated. If I bought something from a dude on the sidewalk or working out of a van, I’m in a similar boat. But this is a machined, produced product. It comes in a box with shrink wrap and Styrofoam. More importantly, it is sold at a permanent kiosk in a mall, and has been sold there for years. Is it reasonable to assume that established vendors in established commercial properties are selling legitimate goods? If I suspect those goods are not legitimate, is it ethical to pass off the moral responsibility for that act of piracy on the merchant?
I say all this from the position of someone who decided it was, in fact, the merchant’s responsibility to make sure the goods he’s selling are legitimate. If I can’t trust an established merchant in an established commercial venue, who can I trust?
as per r-b’s request, I’m adding some photos of the product in question. Notice that: a) no brand names or product names on the box; b) there are Star Wars photos (ep 1 lightsaber battle); c) there’s a weird montage of photos on the back; d) it’s made in CHINA – the world capital of copyright violations. Very suspicious.