COMPUTER SOFTWARE OWNERSHIP
A computer program is a sequence of commands, which
tells the computer how to perform a task or a sequence of
tasks. Large computer programs are called software, they
perform heavier tasks. Some of those software programs are
being published on the net, and this is how they are
downloaded for free everyday. Microsoft is well known for
this way of selling products like Internet explorer, Net
Meeting, Real Audio etc.
The Internet is probably one of the most important
informational center in the world. Indeed, with a simple
server connection, we can access the world from our own PC.
The article from Deborah Johnson on property rights in
computer software demonstrates how the Internet somehow
provides privileges and disadvantages on publishing free
In this article, an individual published a virus
tester program on the Internet. An interested programmer
improved the version on his own and published it. What are
the ethical issues raised in this case?
Morally, it's wrong to improve a program, and publish the
newest version. It's like copying homework from a friend,
but improving the answers to get a better grade. In this
case the second programmer gets all the credit for writing
the program. Freeware can be negative in that way, but it
also provides a constant improvement of all software.
Therefore the quality of the products on the market is
consistently growing. This programming competition carries
on also within companies; this is the reason why programs
like Internet explorer are constantly updated.
Another ethical issue brought up is which person has the
permission to publish the new version. Of course, logically
it would be the original programmer, but in this case it
seems like the second programmer completely forgot to ask
for permission. Again, the original programmer is robbed of
To prevent these problems, laws on property rights should
be created to protect computer programs, as they do for
articles or any normal documents. For example, if a quote
from a book is used in a paper, the use of quotation marks
are necessary, otherwise it s plagiarism. Therefore the
same strategy should be utilized for computer software.
Furthermore, programmers usually protect themselves by
making their coding as complex as possible. Therefore,
they're minimizing the chances of having someone else using
they're code to improve the version. It also improves the
programmer s skills towards programming, and decoding, the
basic tools to a successful programmer.