You may not LIKE that those who own it are charging for it, but does that give you the right to swipe it any more than a similar gripe would give you the right to shoplift a book or newspaper from a store?That is a simple response that doesn't consider other "distribution channels." For example, the local diner has the Chicago Tribune on the counter. Assuming that the diner hasn't purchased subscriptions for the several dozen patrons who read that newspaper, does that mean the diner is engaging in a criminal activity? What if I read the newspaper on the train on the way to work and give it to a co-worker gratis to read on the way home? What if someone reads a poignant Zorn column, cuts it out, and tacks it on the bulletin board at work? And at the crux of Zorn's comment quoted above is the age-old question of whether it is ethical to read a magazine or newspaper at the store (far more likely and logical than shoplifting) instead of buying it.
Assume that those sites redistributing this material are not charging for (reselling) it, and assume that they are not breaking into NYT servers to get it. Somebody paid for access to those columns, and that person is sharing them with other interested readers.
Another aspect of TimesSelect that is rarely discussed is a writer's need to be heard. The NYT claims that their columnists are influential, but how did they become influential? Certainly not by having their audience restricted. If those columnists are so popular, why can't the NYT charge more for advertising on those particular Web pages? That would accomplish the same goal without the self-important, ill-will-generating move of creating TimesSelect.
I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but one could argue that there is a precedent for this sort of sharing. The only possible counter to that would be to say that it's different because those sites are using the same "channel" as nytimes.com. There is one thing that bugs me about the current TimesSelect set-up: I wouldn't mind paying for the insightful Paul Krugman and the lovely and talented Maureen Dowd, but I would hate to think I was subsidizing boneheads like Thomas Friedman and David Brooks in the process.