Is it ethical to download music from CDs at the Library? Is it legal? A possible answer, from the Houston Chronicle:
This guideline strives to balance the right of a creator to be paid for his work (and thus encourage his creativity) and the interest of the larger society in the dissemination of ideas. The fundamental goal of copyright is not to secure profits but to inspire thought — “to promote the progress of science and useful arts,” as Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution puts it.
Although copying an entire work is seldom legal, it is sometimes ethical — for example, if the work is unavailable for purchase (most books ever published are now out of print); if it is available only in an archaic format (a 78 rpm recording, a Betamax tape, a clay tablet); if you already own a copy and want another in a more usable format (less scratchy, fewer coffee stains). But such reasonable situations might not inoculate you against lawsuits. The law is an expression not just of ethics but of power.
Good to know.