What constitutes ethical behavior while using a computer? Ethics is a system of moral principles, rules, and accepted standards of conduct. (Refer to the chapter’s list of ethical computing guidelines.) As an example of one country, the implications and restrictions of U.S. copyright law are that copying of software is illegal. Copying software by individuals can harm the entire academic community, and the copying and use of software deprives publishers and developers of a fair return for their work, increases prices, reduces the level of future support and enhancements, and can inhibit the development of new software products.
Consider guideline number 6: “Do not use software (or make illegal copies for others) without paying the creator for it.” Have you or anyone you know ever done this, thinking it was okay?
Conduct a Web search on the ethics of copying music or software from another person or the Internet. Discuss some of the information that you find. Some ideas you might want to consider include the following (note – you do not need to answer all of these questions):
- Is it legal?
- Is it accepted by the general public? Include information on shareware and freeware.
- Is copying software moral or immoral?
- Is it wrong when so many people are doing it?
- Is anyone really harmed?
- Is copying music different from copying software?
- What are your personal feelings on the issue?
- Does downloading music from the Internet really harm anyone?
- Should people who share music and software on the Web be prosecuted for their actions?
- What about the websites that facilitate sharing?
- What if the website has a statement that clearly indicates that sharing of copyright material is illegal but they do nothing to prohibit sharing?