Justification Based on the Deontological Theory
Computer ethics are a set of professional and social expectations of a computer professional and computer user. Computer societies make up computer ethical conduct codes that their members should follow. The code of conducts comes with disciplinary measures for those who fail to observe them. Computer ethics consist of intellectual property rights, the effects of technology to the society, details of privacy and censorship (Stamatellos p.3).
Computer software is pricey, especially for very core software that is important for the completion of a specific task using a computer. Most software is upgraded yearly requiring purchase of the newer version to enjoy new functionalities introduced. A long-term personal cost analysis of software purchase gives the conclusion that software is very expensive. On the other hand, most software is easy to copy and redistribute, and this fact increases the temptation of obtaining a cheap software copy of the original that works just like a genuine copy. Software is a form of intellectual property belonging to the individual or company that registered as the owner of the copyrights. I face an ethical question of observing intellectual property rights requirements that prohibit illegal copying of software (Stamatellos p.39).
I think it is not worth it to obtain genuine copies of software that costs as much as ten times the cost of an illegal copy of the software. In cases where there are mechanisms available to distinguish genuine software from pirated copies, such as through verification when the software needs additional service and automatic updates, there are illegal copies that also come with fake verification capabilities that mimic genuine ones and fool verification mechanisms into accepting them as genuine. This makes it less convincing to obtain genuine software that works just like a non-genuine one.
As a consumer of software, I ought to buy genuine software or resolve to use free software that released under free or share alike license. In cases where the purchase of software comes with an end user legal agreement prohibiting copying or modifying the software, then as a consumer, I am not supposed to alter the software or redistribute it. Persons or groups that participate in unauthorised modification of software and subsequent distribution are hurting the business of the software copyright holder, unless the provisions in the end use legal requirements for the software allow for modification and redistributing. The continuum of software industry includes the consumer, the distributor, the packager, creator and the testers as well as bug fixers. Individual or a group may perform each state of the continuum, while some of the stages can form a single stage of the software industry. Each stakeholder in the field has an ethical responsibility of acting within the established code of conduct and where such a conduct does not exist then individuals should act morally in accordance with what they expect others to act if they had their position.
A denial of revenue on any stage along the continuum is a sabotage of the whole industry as each stage is dependent on the immediate stage to offer or to obtain quality software. Quality software in this case refers to bug free, well documented, easy to use, and easy to install and uninstall software that serves the intended purpose of creation.
Justification Based on the Deontological Theory
When I fail to obtain genuine software, and opt for cheap copies, I deny important revenue that keeps testers and creators among other stakeholders in business. I am also jeopardizing the existence of the industry and my chances of obtaining upgrades of the same software or similar ones. This realization arises out of the deontological theory of ethics, which dictates that I should oblige to my responsibility and duties as a software consumer. The deontological theory best manages the ethical question regarding use of non-genuine software because it defines ethical correctness as the observation of obligations to other individuals or groups as well as fulfilling our duties to the betterment of society (Geirsson and Holmgren p.112).
In analysing my dilemma of buying genuine copies or using cheaper non-genuine copies, the theory binds me to act in a way that shows aware of the consequences of my actions, and that any action I take is in accordance to the obligation I owe to the other stakeholders along the software continuum. If I decide to obtain a non-genuine, copy then am acting contrary to my obligation to the creator of the software by denying him the appropriate revenue for the product. I am also discarding my moral obligations to all stakeholders in the industry by breaking the value chain and rendering their efforts and contributions obsolete concerning the software I unethically obtain. Lastly, when I choose to distribute or modify a genuine or non-genuine copy, I committing an illegality punishable by law, which is the mechanism that a society uses to correct unethical behaviour. Even in a case where I go undetected by anybody within the society, am still guilty of failing to honour my duty of observing the requirements of the end user legal agreement of the software, which prohibits the use, or copying of non-genuine software without permission.
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