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Ethics in Computer Technology

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By mikey187
Words 1752
Pages 8
Mike Young
Instructor: James Michael Hughes
Ethics
13 December 2011

Ethics and Piracy “Ethics is everything … If you don’t have a strong moral standing, if you don’t have an ethical foundation, you just crumble” (Shays). Computer Information Systems is a job category that is projected to be growing through the next ten years according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computer technology gives an IT (Information Technology) Professional access to computer software and other sensitive information and ethics could determine how an individual may deal with these items on a day to day basis. Should businesses and individual be allowed to pirate software? Pirating continues to be a topic of concern for the future of technology. According to dictionary.com ethics is “that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions” (Dictionary.com). “The more specific term “computer ethics” has been used to refer to applications by professional philosophers of traditional Western theories like utilitarianism, Kantianism, or virtue ethics, to ethical cases that significantly involve computers and computer networks. “Computer ethics” also has been used to refer to a kind of professional ethics in which computer professionals apply codes of ethics and standards of good practice within their profession” (Bynum). Pirating computer software is a major ethical issue in computer technology. Pirating is the copying of computer software without permission. Typically whenever a person buys a program it is licensed for one computer to use it at a time. Computer software can be a significant cost to a company. Software can cost anywhere from ten dollars per license per user to upwards of one hundred thousand dollars per license per user. In an economy where companies need to cut cost to maximize their profits, IT professionals may be pressured to cut cost. One area to reduce cost may be to copy computer software. The cost of computer software is a major expense for some companies, and is the main reason for piracy. Another problem is when people buy a product they like to think that they own that product. That’s the attitude after a company pays thousands of dollars for their software license and they feel that they should be able to do what they want with it. That includes copying the software or installing it on as many computers as they deem necessary. The company that I am employed at is an engineering firm that employees about one hundred thirty employees and they pay in excess of two hundred thousand dollars a year in licensing fees. In a company like this there are a lot of different types of software that could be pirated. So if IT professionals don’t copy software and help reduce cost, they might fear that the company may have to look for other areas to cut cost and that area of cuts could come in the form of layoffs. The opposing side may say in the case of corporate pirating is illegal or unethical because the company is profiting from the pirated software. If every company pirated software then software companies would not be able to stay in business with the lack of profits. The right and wrong of pirating get more convoluted when it comes to personal individuals copying software because they will not be benefitting in a monetary sense, by making a profit off of the software. When it comes to individual copying software at home tends to be on a much smaller scale and may go almost un-noticed. The typical individual at home will most likely not be copying software that cost tens of thousands of dollars. People are more willing to make large corporations be accountable for pirating than they are their next door neighbor or friend who can get them Microsoft Office for free. The argument could be made about Microsoft for example is a multi-billion dollar company; they are not going to miss a few hundred dollars. A global corporation like that is already overcharging people and they don’t deserve more money. In addition to that these big companies create their programs one time and just keep copying it to all those disk or flash drives, so it really is not costing the company too much money to make this particular product. According to Ernesto Gluecksmann in a response to a Time Magazine article on The Unauthorized Copying of Computer Programs said "I have a job in software retail. Like most retail employees, my co-workers and I get employee discounts and benefits. The surprise came when one software publisher offered us a fully packaged product for $30 that we were retailing for $450. In other words, the break-even price for the company is $30; it gets an additional $200 selling to us, and we in turn make about $220 retailing it to consumers. Software is so expensive today that it is no wonder people choose to copy programs or buy them bootlegged, when the prices are high, companies deserve losses to pirates" (DeRoos). The other side of the argument may defend that it cost a lot of money to continue with their research and development in order to keep putting out a better product. It takes an extreme amount of hours and people to create an intricate program. Some of these programs may have several hundred programmers with thousands of hours working on a particular product. According to Ken Walsh of the U.S. Software Publishers Association, was quoted in J. Barry DeRoos’s report Ethics in Computer Science, "Industry's loss on a global base is staggering." The unauthorized copying of computer programs by American businesses alone deprived software publishers of $1.6 billion last year (2007), a figure that swells to nearly $7.5 billion when overseas markets are included. He continues to add that the copying of software has other serious effects on the ethical character of the person. "Perhaps the greatest cost of software piracy is the effect of such actions on members' appreciation of the need of ethical behavior. Taking the property of another without offering just compensation is stealing. An individual who makes an unauthorized copy of a software package is in fact taking another's property, albeit intellectual instead of physical property. Unfortunately, this is not a widely recognized form of property” (DeRoos). Who owns the intellectual product? Intellectual property is referred to as creations of the mind. This includes things such as inventions, literary works and computer programs. This question is what grays the line of what is right and wrong in regards of pirating computer software. One group of people say that the person or company that invented the program owns the intellectual property therefore it cannot be copied or that is stealing. Why is buying intellectual property any different than buying an appliance. Whenever you buy an appliance it is yours to do whatever you want with it. People feel like once they pay for a product it is theirs to do whatever they want to do with it. That includes computer software. Companies have tried to combat piracy by adding a registration key and requiring users to activate the license on line or over the phone. Microsoft Office for example will let you install the software only if you have a legitimate serial number. Microsoft requires you to activate your license within thirty days or you will not be able to use it again. The purpose of making you activate the license is so they can tell if that serial number is being used more than once. Another problem that American consumers have is that not all foreign countries abide by the United States copyright laws. In some of those countries like India and China you can get some of the software for just a few dollars compared to hundreds of dollars in the United States. By the same token the people in those third world countries do not make the salaries that Americans do. It is very difficult and expensive for a manufacture to sue over piracy. In all reality they cannot afford to go after the everyday individual who is pirating software for his or her buddy out of his home. It is also not worth their resources to go after individuals in the foreign countries either. Even if they win people don’t have anything to give them and there is no real way of enforcing the laws. In the United States “The unlikeliness of punishment, as perceived by students in computer science, influences their intention to use pirated software and their actual behavior in a positive way. In general, users believe that they will not get caught while using pirated digital material” (Konstantakis, Palaigeorgiou and Siozos). Software piracy is a big issue that looks like it will not be going away any time soon or maybe ever. With the consumers being unhappy with the high cost of software and the companies needing to make a profit, where is the common ground. With the continuing advancement in technology companies will try to combat piracy and the users will find new ways to use pirated software. Cost may be a reason for the majority of people who pirate software, but even if cost is reduced and most consumers feel the price is fair, pirating will continue. Some people like the challenge and there are people who just want things for free, no matter what the risk or who it may impact. Pirating is illegal by the laws standards and in my opinion it is unethical. I would consider pirating stealing. However I do understand why it is a problem and why the lines of ethical and unethical can be blurred.

Works Cited
Bynum, Terrell. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Copyright 2008. 8 November 2011 <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-computer/>.
DeRoos, J. Barry. Ethics in Computer Science. 6 November 2011 <http://home.messiah.edu/~deroos/personal/copy.htm>.
Dictionary.com. Copyright © 2011. 27 November 2011 <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethics>.
Konstantakis, Nikos, George Palaigeorgiou and Panos Siozos. Behaviour & Information Technology. 18 January 2009. 12 December 2011 <http://lib-proxy.jeffco.edu:2318/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=564d38cb-485e-4d9d-a03c-a67d7ccc38d8%40sessionmgr11&vid=2&hid=15>.
Shays, Christopher. Great Quotes. Copyright 2011. 4th November 2011 <http://www.great-quotes.com/quotes/keyword/ethics/pg/3 >.

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