In today's world, copyrighted digital content is considered illegal by most nation's law, and immoral by some as stealing.

Digital Content is duplicated through millions of 1's and 0's. There is no loss in cost when someone duplicates Digital goods. Arguably, there may or may not be loss in sales.

What if food was digital?

In a post-modern society, someone invented a machine that was so cheap to make that everyone in wealthier societies would own one. These machines can take any food, even old or rotten food, and duplicate it to become a brand new, exact copy, and entirely fresh.

The cost to duplicate the food? Matter or Energy, which is free in this post-modern world.

Now, there are people who make a living off of their food. Their recipe took them decades to perfect. People come from all over the world to taste their fine dining. Restaurants have loyal customers. From McDonalds and Taco Bell, to the most luxurious 5 star restaurants and top paid chefs- everyone has their recipe.

The catch is, the food blueprint is digital. One person can buy a 5 star restaurant's steak, and put it in the machine. Then he can send this steak to anyone and everyone, and they can download it from a popular torrent website. Within seconds, their machine will material, for free, that exact food, but piping hot, fresh, and even altered (How do you want your steak cooked? What sides? Anything altered?)

Restaurants would instantly become bankrupt. The entire food industry would collapse. Millions would lose their jobs, and chefs would be put out of work due to the multitude of incredible recipes available in what quickly became the most popular torrent in the world: "The Ultimate Digital Recipe Book".

The food industry unites, and begins to sue these uploaders and file hosters. Bloggers and Indie Chefs begin to complain that their work is being stolen, and it hurts them a lot more than it hurts McDonalds or [insert 5-star-restaurant]. The government sides with the food industry, and places people in prison for uploading and hosting these torrents.

Meanwhile, people starving in other countries have these machines- or know someone who does. The RIAA version of the food industry is trying its best to prevent them from getting their recipes, because they own them. These starving individuals have free copies of bland rice and less-than-tasty hamburgers. However, they begin demanding 5 star recipes, because the matter and energy cost is exactly the same: free, or the cost of electricity to run a computer.

Is this immoral to duplicate food? Is it only immoral to break the law? Is it only immoral to UPLOAD the digital food?

  • 1
    Good question, but I doubt things like "the entire food industry would collapse". Has any digitized industry (film/video, music, news, literature, photography etc.) collapsed?
    – obelia
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 3:42
  • I'm at sentence one, is there a word missing?
    – Nikolaj-K
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 8:27
  • 1
    Basically good tasting food is a luxury, not a need. If people can live healthy eating soilent and there is soilent for everyone then I don't see anything immoral in protecting some knowledge. Although a creative commons license or a copyleft would be nicer options. Besides, companies making those machines would probably provide each one with a set of recipes. Also students and other people would release open source recipes to get a better CV and get hired on one of these companies, or get fame, or get sex, or whatever.
    – Trylks
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 13:17
  • I think this is entirely dependent on the moral code that applies. I know creative pros that think it is without a doubt immoral to violate copyright laws and illegally copy their work. And I know creative pros that think these copyright laws are immoral, that depriving them of the right to derive things from existing work is bad for society and wrong. Generally the pro-copyright law group is older, and the anti-copyright group is younger.
    – obelia
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


In a world like the one described by you, it's possible that the question is sort of "wrong". That technology obviously is world-changing, so probably copyright would change too. Even leaving aside the possibility of an open digital-food-machine, and the possibility of an open digital recipe, it wouldn't be that much of a problem if people got fired, because they could still eat (expecially if there are public machines).

In regard to restaurants' collapse, I doubt it. They don't exist just as a place to consume food, they are also a place to go to for the company, to meet people and friends. What's more, the food would still need to be conceived by people who know about it, and it would evolve just as it does today, because taste changes, because people are in search of something new, and so on.

Probably even world hunger would be solved, like, immediately.


When I think of hunger, I think of what Jesus Christ said: "You will always have the poor among you..." He did not say that we will always have the hungry among us. So poverty as a problem is unsolvable, but what people actually need to survive is solvable.

These matters of technology are designed and worked for to fulfill a need for survival. I think that at least the proper governments of the world support the people living there such that today most states in the USA do not charge tax for purchasing "necessities" like food and clothing. "Luxuries" are taxed. In the same way, copyright should not apply to basic human needs like food and clothing. So when the time comes when such a machine to craft food is available, it will still be wise to learn from the mistakes of today and yesterday, from the mistakes of former nations and other people.


Is this immoral to duplicate food?

If the food is healthy to eat and made readily available to you, duplicate it if possible, using as few resources as possible. "Spread throughout the Earth and subdue it. Rule over the [animals]..." is a call to decent scientific study. One studies to learn, and one learns to use, and one uses for good. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

Is it only immoral to break the law?

Man's rules change. "I, the Lord, do not change." Therefore, man's rules are only valid if they meet God's rules. God designed man to live and to understand and to revere and obey God; and his words are kindness, justice, and righteousness that he exercises on the Earth "because in these things I delight".

And so at the heart of all these questions we ask each other is a desire for Kindness (love), Justice (betterment), and Righteousness (goodness -- faithfulness to God who alone is good).

So the law must concede to reality. The law was made for man; man was not made for the law.

Copyright and patents are designed to limit right to sell, not right to use.

Is it only immoral to UPLOAD the digital food?

Is it moral to share good things with the people around you? "Which is lawful [on the Sabbath]: to do good, or to do evil, to save life, or to destroy it?" (Said just before he healed the crippled hand of the man standing there before them all.)

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