It's never right to copy software

In the first case study entitled "It's never right to copy software", the policy vacuum is whether it is in order for people to copy particular software and use it in other computers other the one the software was bought for. As a matter of fact, software is intellectual property that whether belonging to an individual, a group, or a corporation, should be strictly observed in the purchase and utilization of the software. In the case study, the principle puts Mr Gleason in an ethical dilemma of choosing between observing copyright regulations by not copying the "Math-Tutor" and compromising the extensive benefits that this would bring to the poor students on one hand. On the other hand, Gleason has the option of violating the copyright rules by replicating the software and installing in all the computers in the new math-computer centre.

The conceptual muddle in this case is that Duffy, the Principal of City Hill High School, is either unaware or ignorant of the fact that the software is legally protected by copyright laws that criminalize any attempt to copy or use unlicensed copies of the software. The temptation here is to assume that no one will know that the crime happened, which, according to Duffy, is the best way out to help the students while saving on expenditure considering the meagre budget of the school. There is also the tendency to assume that after all the school will not be the first institution to copy the software because many other institutions have done and are still doing the same. Additionally, the perception that the company makes over 100 million in dollars may be used to justify the unlawful act of using unlicensed software.

The core values and ethics of a typical society hold that it is not right to violate the laws of the land that protect intellectual property against piracy and unauthorized usage. As such, the consequentialism nature of the values and ethics provide for the violators of copyright laws to face the due sentence in accordance with the law of the land and international laws that their country is a signatory to. However, the existing policies need amendments in order to contribute to the good of the society. For instance, the copyright policies should be adjusted to allow needy institutions such as City Hill High to buy only one licensed copy of the original software and then copy it for all their computers, or allow the licensed copy to be installed in many networked computers within the institution that bought the license alone. Nevertheless, capable organizations should continue paying for all the copies of software they use. If this is done, such needy institutions will freely copy such software for the good of its students after purchasing one authorized copy.

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Who's program is this?

In the "Who's program is this?" case study, the ethical question regarding the integration of information technology into the society concerns Ellen's case in which she quits her current employment as a Software Programmer at Apollo to go and work for another company offering her more monthly income and a higher rank at work. The ethical problem here is that she intends to take with copies of the U-Pay software whose development she spear-headed as the project manager. In fact, she has made copies of the software and the code and has even gone to the extent of disclosing the mode of operation of the software and its access codes in the interview with new employer. This treatment of company software and disclosure of its code brings up the question as to whether it is right for her to treat Apollo's software and access codes as personal property by virtue of her having headed its development.

In this case, it is the ownership rights of the U-Pay software and its access codes seems is somewhat ambiguous, considering the fact that Ellen spearheaded the entire process of developing the U-Pay software where she served as the project manager. Having directed the design of the program, Ellen feels that she is as deserving as Apollo in claiming the ownership rights of the program. However, the truth of the matter is that the program is legally owned by Apollo which solely owns the rights of copying, modifying and distributing the software. Thus, Ellen has no valid ownership claims to the U-Pay software.

As expected, the U-Pay system is legally the property of Apollo rather than that of the developers. As such, Ellen is guilty of violating the copyright, patent and practice laws by making copies of the software design and disclosing the code and the mode of function of the software to an unauthorized party - her new employer. The regulations regarding the ownership of property and the restrictions of access and utilization imposed by the legal owner are clear enough to declare Ellen as guilty of violating copyrights, patents, trade laws and practice rules regarding computer software. Therefore, it is important that appropriate induction and refresher training be offered to all workers in institutions developing and/or using software in their operations in order to inform them of the legal aspects of copyrights, intellectual property, trade laws, patents and practice rules in order for them to avoid involvement in unethical situations such as the one Ellen got into.

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