Sony & Apple Profit from Porn: Can I ?


Less than a week passed between the release of Apple’s new video-capable iPod in October and announcements that some porn sites would begin releasing hard-core video shot & formatted specifically for the devices.

(For a relatively tame…um…example, see the iPod page at soft-core site / web-community SuicideGirls.com. I found that page while researching this posting. Honest.)

(In late October, a story in Wired indicated that the porn industry, worried about a public back-lash, was having second thoughts about releasing porn capable of being discreetly viewed by the gazillions of kids currently packing iPods.)

Next, Wired reported a few months back that porn formatted for the PlayStation Portable is on its way:

“Two Japanese publishers of adult DVD video have announced plans to release a selection of their top titles on Sony’s Universal Media Disc, or UMD, format, which is currently supported exclusively by the PSP, next month. These aren’t shady gray-market items: The eight video discs will be officially licensed by Sony and carry the PSP logo on the package.”

The Wired article says Sony may be more than happy to see porn producers targeting the PSP: the adult video market is “often the path to success for a new media format.”

Is this a business ethics issue? Mehhh. It will be for folks who believe that porn is harmful. (You’d be surprised how hard it is to find a decent webpage to point you to on the “porn is healthy” side of the issue. OK, here’s one.)

Presumably, portable porn falls into the “unintended, but foreseeable” category, for both Apple and Sony. That is, they may not have designed the iPod and PSP with porn in mind, but such tech-savvy folks surely foresaw, and perhaps even now welcome, this use. Companies (and others) can of course be blamed for unintended-but-foreseeable consequences of their actions, at least in some circumstances. Firing a gun into a dark bedroom can have the unintended, but foreseeable, consequence of killing someone who happens to be sleeping there. On the other hand, most people wouldn’t hold makers of butcher knives responsible for an unintended but foreseeable use of such a knife as a murder weapon. (The key ethical principle distinguishing these two cases is what Alan Gewirth calls the “principle of intervening action.” Roughly, if someone else gets to make a choice along the causal chain between my action A and some outcome Z, my own causal responsiblity for Z is diminished, and with it my moral responsibility.) It’s not clear whether the intervening actions of kids with iPods counts as a fully voluntary intervening action in the sense that would diminish, much, Apple’s responsibillity.

(Explaing the title of this posting: Internet search engines like Google find pages based on keywords — including positioning, repetition, and variety of on-target keywords. The present posting, with multiple references to porn, sexuality, nudity, etc., will likely end up attracting accidental visitors. Google may well direct at least a few people to this page who are actually searching for real porn, not just discussion of same. That’s an unintended, but foreseen, consequence of this posting.)

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