A computer program is a sequence of commands, which

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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

the credit.

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.