Let's say I like, but don't need, a piece of software. If, after shopping around, I find the lowest price is way, way beyond what I'm willing to pay for it and so I decide not to buy it. Then, I find an opportunity to download it from the internet for free. If I download it and use the software I realise I'll be breaking the law. But, from a moral perspective, how should I be judged? I haven't really deprived the software developer as I wouldn't consider buying at the current price. Nor has the developer lost any material possessions. Nor have I given money to any criminals. Plus, if I commit to buy the software should it ever become what I consider to be "affordable" they won't lose any future income either. Again, how would you judge this behavior from a moral perspective?

Let’s begin by asking where the copy of the software on the Internet came from. Presumably someone purchased a licensed copy. Typically, commercial software licenses limit further reproduction and distribution. So the original purchaser agreed to the conditions of the license, and consummated that agreement when installing the software. More directly: The purchaser promised not to further distribute it. So you’ve come across this software on the Internet, and you know that its availability is the consequence of someone’s broken promise. You did not make the promise, but you are knowingly benefiting from someone else’s moral failure. Compare the situation from buying a used car from someone who stole it, and you know the car is stolen. You may know as well that the original owner is fully covered by insurance, and will not suffer any financial loss. Is it morally o.k. to buy such a car? Does it matter that you wouldn’t have purchased the car from another source because you aren’t willing to pay the market rate?

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