How is downloading a book online morally different than borrowing it from the library?

Libraries are a collective action, downloading a book is an individual action.

Libraries purchase and often pay additional fees for the ability to lend books out.

Downloading is a wholesale copying of a work, more akin to taking a book and photocopying it than borrowing it.

The moralizing of copyright is a very recent invention, largely brought about by governments who intended to control the works being produced. Print books in th 17th and 18th centuries were widely pirated, with the protestant Netherlands being home to some of the most egregious pirate presses. While those same pirate presses did produce a lot of pornographic and radical material, they also spread ideas a lot further than the official, law-abiding presses.

Making something lawful or unlawful does not add moral weight to a civil law.

Originally answered on Quora

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