Here's the first part of Landsburg's thoughts on the issue:
This raises the question: Exactly what does Sony owe to Alexander Stern (and others like him)?Read the rest at his blog.
A similar issue comes up in Chapter 20 of The Big Questions, where Mary the landlord won’t rent to, say, Albanians. Ought we force her to?
In The Big Questions, I make two separate (but closely related) arguments on Mary’s behalf. I was about to write a blog post offering the same arguments on behalf of Sony when I realized that only one of them applies. So I am forced to conclude that I should be a little less sympathetic to Sony than I am to Mary. My first argument is that Mary never had any moral obligation to rent to anyone in the first place–and if she has no general obligation to rent to anyone, then she can have no specific obligation to rent to Albanians. Likewise, Sony has no moral obligation to provide anyone with video games–and if there is no moral obligation to provide me with a video game then there is no obligation to provide one to Alexander Stern. Fine so far.
But my second argument is that Mary, appearances to the contrary, is actually doing some good for Albanian apartment seekers. By renting rooms to non-Albanians, she takes a little pressure off the housing market, driving down rents and making it easier for Albanians to find apartments elsewhere. Sure, she could be doing even more for them, but she’s already doing more for them than I am, since I don’t rent apartments to anyone at all. How can she be at fault for doing small amounts of good when I’m given a free pass to do no good at all?
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.