Normal users of the internet are frequently confronted with banner ads: often obnoxious graphics trying to hock all manner of products and services. More sophisticated users will now find themselves a bit surprised, when using a public computer, because they long ago stopped seeing these displays on their own machines. This trick is achieved through the use of the Firefox browser, the AdBlock plugin, and Filterset G. With these three pieces of code running, the vast majority of graphically based ads on the internet simply vanish.
Now, an editorial on CNet suggests that using such technology may be immoral. In effect, web sites are providing you with content in exchange for your pupils grazing ever-so-briefly across the advertisements that pay their bills.
While I don’t feel convinced one way or the other about the moral issues involved in this particular case, it is an interesting kind of moral problem. The nature of what is ‘theft’ in a digitized world remains an intensely disputed one. This is the fundamental product of going for a world where products cost a significant amount per unit (with additional costs for design) to one where things may cost a lot to design, but can often be copied for free. That goes for everything from pop CDs to New York Times editorials, and dealing with it is one of the more interesting legal and business issues of the present time.