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 software. 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.