Ethical reasoning 伦理推理
The actions of Tencent as far as intellectual property is concerned raise a number of questions, which mainly question whether this company’s actions amount to ethical violation and disregard of code of conduct/ethics in this case, the ACS Code of Conduct for an Australian IT company. To begin with, Tencent’s actions can be analysed from the perspective of deontology and utilitarian theories, which are duty-based and consequence-based theories respectively. From the perspective of deontology, an action is ethically correct if it does not violate one’s obligations and duties to another person or the larger society (Hunt and Vitell 2006). This is irrespective of whether such actions promote one’s happiness or not in society. Speaking from this perspective, one of the critical aspects that emerge from the analysis of Tencent’s actions as far as intellectual property is concerned is the fact that this company has in the past acted in an unethical way. In this case, Tencent did not honour its obligation and duty to respect the intellectual property of other companies such as AOL and Douyin, which are some of its competitors across the globe. For instance, whereas allowing posts on its platforms to tarnish the image of Douyin was a platform upon which Tencent could exploit and enhance its perception in the market, such an action amounts violation of its duty and obligation as far as respect to property rights are concerned. Moreover, the company’s actions cannot be justified since respecting the intellectual property of third parties, in this particular case AOL and Douyin, was part of its policy, which defined its duties and obligations as businesses not only in the Chinese environment but also on the global markets.
Another theory that could help explains whether Tencent acted ethically with regards to the intellectual property rights of AOL and Douyin is utilitarian theory. In reference to Campbell (2016), utilitarian theory argues an action is ethical correct if it yields the greatest benefits to many people in society. Speaking from this perspective, one can argue that Tencent’s actions that infringed the intellectual property rights of AOL and Douyin were ethical since such actions would have yield the greatest benefits to its shareholders and investors. For instance, in getting a domain name that was almost similar to AOL’s software, this company would have easily gained worldwide recognition, increased its revenue and as such enhance the profits for its stakeholders. The rapid expansion would also mean the Tencent will increase its tax revenue to the government as well as reduce unemployment not only in China but also in other parts of the globe where it has established its operations. Whereas this is the case, there is a need to observe that Tencent’s actions undermined the rights of both AOL and Douyin. In this case, these companies too had a greater impact in their respective markets and as such, infringing their intellectual property rights not only undermined their rights but also threatened the good of a large section of the society who depended on them.
Apart from analysis Tencent actions from the perspective of deontology and utilitarian theories, they can also be analysed from the perspective of the ACS Code of Conduct for an Australian IT company. According to the Australian Computer Society (2014), whereas firms such as Tencent have a responsibility to protect the interests of their stakeholders such as their investors, shareholders and their customers, they still have a duty to respect the intellectual property of others. Speaking from this perspective, in both the AOL and Douyin cases, the court made a ruling against Tencent with an argument that the this company had violated these companies’ intellectual property.
In conclusion, despite the fact that Tencent has a concrete written policy that stipulates that its respects the intellectual property of third parties, its actions in the past reveal that it has been involved in a number of intellectual property infringement incidences. This implies that from a deontology theory perspective, the company has not been able to keep its honour its own duties and obligations as far as respecting the intellectual property of third parties is concerned. Similarly, from as utilitarian perspective, Tencent has in the past engaged in actions that undermine the greater good of the majority through violating intellectual property rights of others. Speaking from this perspective, this report concludes that Tencent does not meet the expected standards of ethical behaviour and as such, it does not meet the threshold to warrant investment from the investment company. In this case, investing in Tencent will be tantamount to sanctioning some of its intellectual property infringement incidences.