Thursday, April 28, 2016

Google Books Can Keep Scanning Copyrighted Titles

Google get to continue digitizing books, making sections of them available online for free ("Supreme Court Declines to Hear Google Books Case," PC Magazine, April 18, 2016). Lower court opinion stands that even though Google did not ask for authors' permission, it is not acting against copyright laws by scanning and uploading newer books, since it only provides a look at them instead of full access as it does for older titles in the public domain. Google called its service a "card catalog for the digital age," an valid application of fair use. The Authors Guild argued for creators' rights in this litigation.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do you use Google Books to find answers to research questions? Do you think your free use of copyrighted and public domain titles in Google Books is fair to the writers and publishers of that information? Why or why not?
  2. Do you use Google Books to decide whether you want to purchase a book? Do you think Google Books promotes the interests of authors by making portions of their books available online for free? Why or why not?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Freely Available Art Work for Educational Use Encouraged by Artist's Foundation

Another sign of the power of the digital age is that free, non-commercial use of an artist's images is being promoted by his foundation to further understanding of his work ("Rauschenberg Foundation Eases Copyright Restrictions on Art," The New York Times, February 26, 2016). The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation wants a prospective user to request high-resolution images from them, so the best depiction of the artist's work is "on display" with correct attribution. This new practice of the allowing free use of the artist's images will cost the foundation "nearly half its image-rights income which has been slightly more than $100,000 a year." But foundation executives believe that the deceased artist himself would want to foster scholarship with this new policy.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do you applaud this foundation's new practice of promoting free use of Robert Rauschenberg's images for nonprofit use? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think if other artists followed the Rauschenberg Foundation in making images available for free nonprofit/educational use, that they would lament the fact that they are losing income? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think this action will make Rauschenberg's works more popular and in turn, encourage more for-profit use of his art?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Unethical Actions of Employees Added to a Database?

To improve the reputation of financial firms in light of recent scandals, bankers are discussing the creation of a database to keep track of ethical lapses that violate business codes ("Wall Street Mulls Naughty List for Ethically Challenged Bankers," Bloomberg Business, December 22, 2015). This list would be available only to banking-related companies that are regulated by federal agencies such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve System (Fed) in their quest to screen job applicants. A few issues about this new plan have yet to be decided, but this system is supposed to provide employees with the right to challenge false information in their profile.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do you think an unethical employee database is a good idea that other companies beyond banking should develop? Why or why not?
  2. Would you be less likely to engage in unethical behavior that's not necessarily illegal, if you knew your name and misdeed may be added to a database that can be searched by prospective employers? Why or why not?
  3. This plan mentions that employees could dispute errors in the database but doesn't say how erroneous information would be removed from the database. Do you think it would be commonplace for employers with a grudge against an employee to add misinformation to a worker's profile? Why or why not?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Can Volkswagen Ever Be Trusted?

Volkswagen's faulty emissions scandal negatively impacted much more than air quality ("VW Employees Responsible for 'Dieselgate:' Where's the Legal, Moral, & Ethical Compass?" Philadelphia Business Journal, October 5, 2015)? Stanley W. Silverman, article author and Chairman of the Board at Drexel University College of Medicine, notes that it is likely that VW caused deaths as a result of adding to the air some "10 to 40 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than allowed by regulation" (see also: Cheating Cost 5 to 20 Lives a Year, Data Show from, October 6, 2015). Silverman suggests that a large number of employees had to know about this deliberate deception.

Discussion Questions:
  1. If you knew that your company was engaging in deliberate illegal acts, would you act with honor and blow the whistle? Why or why not?
  2. Should VW change its name? Would it make a difference in getting people to buy its vehicles? Why or why not?
  3. Should VW executives be fined instead of the company itself? Why or why not?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hacking the Astros: How Unethical Actions Affect Baseball

An alleged security breach of the Astros by the Cardinals may demonstrate that some have not learned ethical lessons from recent sports scandals ("St. Louis Cardinals Hacking Allegations Raise Ethical, Encryption Concerns, Stanford Law Expert Says," Stanford Report, June 18, 2015)? A Stanford University corporate legal expert suggests that Major League Baseball should be proactive and run its own investigation to demonstrate a commitment to fair play.

Discussion Questions:
  1. What punishment, if any, should players on the field receive for non-players who work for the Cardinals organization attempting to get an unfair advantage by stealing proprietary information from another team?
  2. Do you think sports teams are willing to do anything to win, even if actions are illegal or unethical?
  3. Do you think sports teams regularly get current players to disclose inside information about former teams for which they played? Is it just part of the game? Is it ethical?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Experimental Drugs May Come to Patients with Few Other Options

Should patients with few other treatment options for serious conditions or diseases get a chance to use unproven experimental drugs if they are not part of a research study ("J & J Creates Ethics Panel to Allow Access to Experimental Drugs," CBC/Radio-Canada, May 7, 2015)? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes requests for "compassionate use" unproven medicine for patients with incurable or chronic conditions, though federal law in the United States does not allow corporations to distribute unsanctioned pharmaceuticals. The newly formed approval group at Johnson & Johnson (J & J), including medical personnel, bioethicists, and "patient representatives" will decide who gets the untested drugs now instead of individual medical researchers. Personal physicians can request access to experimental drugs for their seriously ill patients through a J &  J phone number or web site.

Discussion Questions:
  1. The article goes on to state that there will be legal issues if patients experience negative or no effects from the unproven drugs. If you had to serve on the ethics board to decide whether a patient should be able to take an untested drug, what factors would you consider when making a decision? Would you give an unproven drug to someone who is terminally ill, believing that they have a very small chance to improve with any medication?
  2. Is it fair to give seriously ill people false hope with these experimental drugs? There is no mention of the cost of these untested drugs. Do you think the drug companies should make these drugs free or at low cost if users are required to report their results which would benefit the pharmaceutical industry and potentially speed up the process for getting the drugs approved?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Non-Prescribed Study Drugs Promote Academic Dishonesty?

Should the illegal use of prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin by college students to improve studying sessions be considered as academic dishonesty ("Illegal Study Drug Use on the Rise, Not Addressed by Universities," USA Today, November 18, 2014)? The Academy of Medical Sciences in Great Britain suggested that colleges and universities should prohibit non-prescribed "academic performance-enhancing stimulants" because they are akin to athletes taking steroids to improve athletic performance.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do you think taking non-prescribed drugs to improve course study sessions should be considered as academically dishonest? Why or why not?
  2. Although the article doesn't address the risks of taking these drugs, a CNN report mentions that they can cause "psychological and physical dependence, sleep difficulties, restlessness, headaches, irritability and depressed feelings." If more students knew about this potential harm, would they think twice about using the drugs without a prescription? Why or why not?
  3. Should student use of non-prescribed stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin be treated simply as a drug offense? Why or why not?