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BT Week 5 - Pair 1 - Intellectual Property

Bozena Tkaczyk
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By Bozena Tkaczyk in the group COMP 607: Fall 2015 cohort November 5, 2015 - 3:38pm

Pair 1 Manuel/Bozena

You have two computers, one at work and one at home. You have only one license for a word processor, but you have installed it on both machines. It is physically impossible for you to ever use both machines at once.

Some software publishers have license agreements that state that you may “install on a certain number of machines as long as only one is in use at any time.” Others allow you to make a single copy of the software as a backup. For Microsoft Office specifically, I was under the impression for some time that one could install it on up to three machines for personal use; I was wrong.

Let’s examine the ethics of piracy from two different viewpoints.

Ethics “involves honest consideration of underlying motive, to possible potential harm, and congruency with established values and rules” (Mujtaba, 1997)

Whether we agree or not with the Software Licence Agreement, which prohibits the installation of the software on multiple machines, we still need to comply with it or choose not to buy the software in the first place. All other justifications are irrelevant. Piracy is a crime under the law.  

Among computer users it is a widespread belief that the unauthorized duplication of software is not morally reprehensible.

Those who believe that piracy is ethical, would argue that:

  • they have a right to the information contained in the software

  • they are exercising their freedom of information and expression

  • reproduction and distribution of the software is a part of fair use within copyrights

  • software piracy doesn't hurt anyone and is thus a “victimless” crime

  • with the rising prices of software, software manufacturers are really not hurt by illegal copies of their programs

  • the software is not worth the money

  • due to the fact that software is buggy, it's really not a crime to distribute faulty products

 However, those who believe that piracy is unethical, would argue that:

  • due to software piracy, the industry has seen some 12 billion dollars and over 100,000 jobs lost

  • copying software is depriving the rightful owners of the software of hard-earned wages

  • the claim that pirates have a right to make illegal copies of software because the software is buggy, or too expensive, or not worth the money doesn't give anybody the right to steal it

  • pirating software costs everyone: software manufacturers must cover their losses (many copies of software are not sold), which forces software companies to raise prices, thus legitimate users are affected by higher costs, making piracy not a "victimless" crime, since software developers, distributors, and, ultimately, end users, are all hurt by piracy

Though opinions on the ethics of software piracy may vary, the fact remains that it is a crime under law and as such should be adhered to. It is particularly in these “grey area” cases where laws are necessary to steer people in the right direction, regardless of how they may feel about the matter.



  1. The Ethics of Piracy, retrieved:
  2. Krummenacker, M. (1995). Are “Intellectual Property Rights Justified”, retrieved from:


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