Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ethical Issues of Software Piracy

There are three general myths surrounding software piracy: (1) the owner is not losing anything, (2) materials available on the Internet are public domain, and (3) that copying is covered by the “fair use” exception to the copyright law.(Robert, 2004) The first myth claims no one is infringed in the process of software piracy, when in fact the owner of the software is never compensated for the products reproduction. The second myth claims that materials obtained from the Internet are free because they reside in public domain, according to Robert’s “users make no distinction between materials made available by their creator for public use and others covered by copyright protection.”(pg. 5) The ethical issues involved with software piracy are numerous but a few are highlighted over all others. A user who commits software piracy may not view their act with any moral awareness, simply as a preferred choice.(Zamoon and Curley, 2008) Other users view software piracy not as theft but as their right to obtain and share software to benefit everyone else in society. Among computer users it is a widespread belief that the unauthorized duplication of software is not morally reprehensible. When asked in a survey conducted by  Robert M. Seigfried sixty-six percent of students from two different colleges said “I think its okay, for people such as myself to copy commercial software from the internet instead of buying it.” (pg. 2) Because the legal system has only advanced so far regarding technological achievements users must rely on other factors to determine their involvement in software piracy, some of those factors being public opinion and academic research. (Zamoon and Curley, 2008) Users weigh the opinions of experts such has college professors and corporations to determine weather software piracy is ethically ambiguous. For software creators and corporations the ethics behind software piracy is one sided, they view it as theft and morally wrong. In 1976 Bill Gates wrote “An Open Letter to Hobbyists”, in it he called the illegal duplication of proprietary software “theft”, and went onto say that users who “steal” software end up hurting the industry by way of discouraging programmers from developing more software for fear of further violations. (“Open Letter to Hobbyists”, 2012)


Zamoon, S., & Curley, S. P. (2008). Ripped from the headlines: What can the popular     press teach us     about software piracy? Journal of Business Ethics, 83(3), 515-533.     doi:     http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9636-5
 

Robert, M. S. (2004). Student attitudes on software piracy and related issues of computer ethics.Ethics and     Information Technology, 6(4), 215-215. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10676-004-33914
 

Open Letter to Hobbyists (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved 1 Oct 2012 from    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists

Steinberg, G. (2008) Introduction to Computer Information Systems. Dubukue, IA:     Kendall/Hunt     Publishing Co.

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