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Softlifting Music and Other Software Essay

Ethics are moral standards that arise form the freedom to choose between right and wrong. Major features of ethics are responsibility, accountability and liability. (Laudon and Laudon 2008) Being a free moral agent Allison faces an ethical dilemma: ‘duplicate her background music at negligible cost for use in her other restaurant or buying the same music again from the music company at full cost. ’ The conflict is occasioned by copyright law on one side and the temptation to just copy due to the ease to copy brought about by technology. Copying this proprietary piece of software will violate the legal rights of the owner.

This is the nature of property rights-it is individualistic, exclusionary and selfish. The general direction pointed by Article 1 Section 8, of the US Constitution, with regard to copyright matters, implies that the composer of the background music owns exclusive rights to it and Allison cannot: reproduce the music or lyrics, distribute the music or lyrics either for free, for no profit, or for profit, perform the music or lyrics in public play a recording of the music or lyrics in public-even if she owns the CD, or make a derivative work or arrangement for public use in any form.

If Allison goes ahead and uses the recorded music in her second joint, she will have committed ‘piracy’, which Bidgoli defines as “any copying of software in contravention of its license. ” (pg. 297) or “the illegal act of copying software for any reason, other than backup, without explicit permission from and compensation to the copyright holder. ” (Gopal and Sanders 1998) If law enforcement officers come calling, the recorded music would be destroyed and Allison would be penalized according to the law. Socially, softlifting is regarded as a lesser crime.

Especially after considering the inconveniences and costs incurred by users when software companies decide to control how they software is to be used. Someone opined that knowledge is not knowledge until it is shared. With piracy on the rise musicians are looking at the internet as their gateway to a wider market. The only ethical option would be for Allison to buy a new copy or pay a royalty to the composer for permission to play the music in her restaurant. Alternatively she can schedule days in a way that each of her joints can play the music.

The ethical ‘no free lunch’ rule encourages people to assume that “virtually all tangible objects are owned by some one else unless there is a specific declaration otherwise. ”(Laudon and Laudon 2008) Scenario 2: Allison is still concerned about the costs of operating her business. She currently uses a computer based point of sales system to process orders and billing (when a customer places an order, the system prints the bill like a cash register, but also displays the order—and recipe if appropriate—on a monitor in the prep area).

The system has proven extremely helpful over the years, especially for new employees. Allison wants to continue using the same system in her new location. Rather than paying the company to install the system in the new location, Allison has hired a local IS student. This student, Bill, has agreed to install the hardware and copy the software and data from the original location for her. It is clear in this case that there are no ownership or license issues. Once Allison bought the software, it became hers and she can use it as she pleases.

Such a program would fall under the ‘free software’ category which as described by Madey, Freeh, and Tynan, users have access to the source code and is distributed at no cost. (Par. 2) The issue here has to do with paying the company to install the system in the new location. Having separated ‘copyright issues’ from ‘installation services’ it is now easy to identify her ethical dilemma: choose between the company and the local IS student. Assuming that they have no service contract, the company has no legal grounds to sue her if she decides not to use their services.

Like any rational business person, high operation costs would constrain her to using the cheaper services of the local IS student. In any case, if the company, due to one reason or another was not in a position to offer installation services who would service her program? She would of course look for other knowledgeable sources to service the program. Actually those advocating for free software as opposed to proprietary software advance the point that it is possible to make money out of free software through services such as installing, upgrading, modifying and teaching about the software.

If the program was still owned by the company, to install the hardware and copy the software and data from the original location to the new location would make Bill a hacker. This mild form of hacking is described as to “roughly force a program to work, generally inelegantly”. (Forester and Morison pr 77) Hacking is a crime. However for open source software Bill is free to even modify the program’s features to add further functionality. This is the future trend.

To solve this ethical dilemma, Allison needs to assure her conscience that is not obligated to the company that first sold the software to her. If she has doubts she may seek for formal communication from the software company freeing her to do whatever she wants with her software. In any case technological advancement has created a legal grey area where the existing property law has been overtaken by events and can not clearly tell whether it is wrong to listen to music from an IPod.

It has been the trend for companies in the IS industry to overlook petty issues especially at the individual level because the costs of litigation would be phenomenal not forgetting that in the technology world, what is illegal today may become legal tomorrow. Works Cited Bidgoli, H. , The Internet Encyclopedia Volume 3, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. USA 2004. Forester, T and Morrison P. , Computer Ethics: Cautionary Tales and Ethical Dilemmas in computing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. 2001 Gopal, R. D.

, and Sanders, G. L. , “International Software Piracy: Analysis on Key Issues and Impacts,” Information Systems Research Vol. 9, No. 2, December 1998. Laudon, K. C. and Laudon, J. P. Management Information Systems: Managing the Digital Firm, Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA, 2008. Maday, G. , Freeh, V. , Tynnan, R. , “The Open Source Software Development Phenomenon: An Analysis Based on Social Network Theory,” Eighth Americas Conference on Information Systems, University of Notre Dame (2002): 1807

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