Law & Ethics in the Business Environment in USA

Assuming that I am a safety engineer at Ford consulted as to the wisdom of adding $11 to the cost of manufacturing the Pinto, I would recommend that the additional cost be incurred to make all the Pinto units available for sale truly safe. The cost of so many accidents that Ford-users would be involved in is not to be compared with the total additional cost to be incurred instead. Lives of clients will be at stake and Ford will stand to totally lose its share in the market and the people’s high regard for it as a pioneer in the automobile industry.

Those consequences are far more damaging than the computed incremental costs to be incurred. Meting out criminal sentences for those three Ford top management guys is not recommended since there was never a concretely clear and malicious intent on their part to put lives of Pinto-users at stake. On the other hand, doing so would effectively bring home to other car manufacturers the importance of implementing total quality and safety assurance procedures for all the units they manufacture and sell.

Having to pay punitive damages that turn out to be significantly greater than expected is sufficient punishment for the three Ford bosses. On top of the unexpected additional costs incurred by the company, there is the inflicted dent on the company’s image which as well constitutes a negative impact on the company’s performance in the industry. However, even substantial punitive damages might not bring back to good form and perfect health the victimized Pinto-users, more so if they were seriously injured.

At the same time, even the same substantial punitive damages might not sufficiently teach the Ford bosses the lessons they need to learn. For one, as top management people, they should be ready to do plenty of routine checks and to be responsible for the overall mistakes made by the company’s middle management and employees. Being at the top also means having to be involved in the company affairs at the lower part of the corporate ladder. The now-defunct SabreTech was charged by the Florida prosecutors with third-degree murder and manslaughter in July 1999.

A 24-count federal indictment also charged the company, one of its vice-presidents and two of its mechanics with various offenses ranging from giving false statements to investigators to placing a destructive device on a civil aircraft. SabreTech workers were as well indicted for improperly loading hazardous oxygen generators on board a ValuJet DC-9. The place crashed in the Everglades in May 1996 after the canisters ignited during the flight. All 110 people aboard the plane were killed. (CNN website)

Three years after the crash, SabreTech has been out of business, while ValuJet continues to operate only through its merger with AirTran, its fellow discount carrier. SabreTech is still contesting the penalty recommended by federal regulators – a fine amounting to $2. 25million. (CNN website) Other companies that were as well implicated in criminal charges in court that involved any one of its officers or employees include Enron which in 2006 saw its executives sent to jail for their roles in the corporate scandal that rocked the US economy and caused the bourses worldwide to  take a dive. (ECT News website)

The three essential requirements of the Copyright Act are as follows: a)    The work must demonstrate originality; b)    Production must be by a clearly defined “author”; and, c)    The work must be expressed through a fixed and tangible medium. The Song of Joy of the Ami people fails each requirement. As stated in the case, the song falls short of the applicable standard though it is clear that a work only needs to show a minimum amount of creativity to be original. Secondly, the work cannot be considered as having been independently created by the author. The clearly defined author of the song can be traced to the Ami people of long ago.

Presently, Lifvon cannot claim to have composed the song. The fact is that he was not the one who created it independently. As it is, therefore, the song can be rightfully claimed by not one individual person. It is the song of the Ami community, so the entire lot will have to take credit – the present generation and past ones. The third requirement – the fixed and tangible medium for the song - is not met, either. For how can you encapsulate in precise and concrete form the indigenous notion of creation, which totally precludes the originality that existing copyright laws are designed to protect and guard?

Thus, for these given reasons, copyright as we know it just does not apply to the Song of Joy of the Ami people. Based on how the current laws governing copyright will never apply to the music of the Ami people, the author in her case contends that a group rights model of ownership of intangible property will have to be established and recognized by law so as to adequately protect the works of indigenous peoples from an ever-encroaching dominant society.

The communitarian theory aptly supports the legal protection of tribal cultural property. As explained in the book, this theory contends that community is valuable not merely as a means to the protection of individual rights, but also as a positive human good. This can be fully achieved only within a society whose members recognize a reciprocal obligation to act always for the welfare of the entire community. The Ami people comprise a community whose members are bonded together for life.

They stay together as a community, they share the same history and have the duties to protect and pass on the same tradition and cultural properties  - songs, poems, stories and to top it all, the magic of their way of delivering them to their listeners. The system to be set up to fairly compensate indigenous people whenever their culture became the basis for a new work of art will be designed as follows: Lifvon Guo, as the Ami tribal elder, will be the designated leader to represent the Ami people to third parties or the outside world;  as such, Lifvon will exercise transparency and caution knowing that the Ami people trust him.

The Ami tribe will have to set up a system for taking in engagements for singing and similar shows that they have to do as the current generation of their tribe. All equivalent talent fees, ticket sale shares, engagement fees and any other income generated from any of the works of art of their tribe will be pooled as one account belonging to the entire group. The amounts that will be taken from the pooled fund will have to be made known to all so that the planned transparency will be in place.

The group should push for ways to have an equivalent of copyrights – which the group cannot acquire – for all the musical and literary pieces belonging to their tribe. Whenever they do shows and other kinds of engagements, they should strictly forbid the recording of their songs so that their exclusive rights to such musical pieces will be safeguarded. They should promote their ancestral heritage for their tribe Ami, their music and their other works of art to be made known and appreciated by more people – in their country and beyond.

The distortion that occurs in “borrowing” indigenous work is akin to stealing something of great value. In a way, it is like pirating a movie record or a song track – only the indigenous work protected and handed over by the Ami people from generation to generation is far more precious and important. Some people fail to appreciate how much meaning there can be in works of arts that come from centuries ago, but such pieces contain the rich culture, the traditions and the legacy of the Ami tribe to the world.

They ought to share it and do more educational shows. In the process, people watching and listening to them will get to know them. The Ami tribe can gradually be more appreciated and understood. It is sad that their song has landed in the theme for the Olympics without them having received any recognition. Such an act of disrespect to the Ami people should not be repeated.

REFERENCE: Halbert and Ingulli; Law & Ethics in the Business Environment 5th Edition. http://www.fctc.org/