Ethical and Legal Use of Software
Software enables us to accomplish many different tasks with computers. Unfortunately, in order to get their work done quickly and conveniently, some people justify making and using unauthorized copies of software. They may not understand the implications of their actions or the restrictions of the U.S. copyright law.
Here are some relevant facts:
- UNAUTHORIZED copying of software is illegal. Copyright law protects software Authors and Publishers, just as patent law protects Inventors.
- UNAUTHORIZED copying of software by individuals can harm the entire academic community. If unauthorized copying proliferates on a campus, the institution may incur a legal liability. Also, the institution may find it more difficult to negotiate agreements that would make software more widely and less expensively available to members of the academic community.
- UNAUTHORIZED copying of software can deprive developers on a fair return for their work, increase prices, reduce the level of future support and enhancement, and inhibit the development of new software products.
Respect for the intellectual work and property of others has traditionally been essential to the mission of colleges and universities. As members of the academic community, we value the free exchange of ideas. Just as we do not tolerate plagiarism, we do not condone the unauthorized copying of software, including programs, applications, databases, and code.
Software And Intellectual Rights
Respect for intellectual labor and creativity is vital to academic discourse and enterprise. This principle applies to works of all authors and publishers in all media. It encompasses respect for the right to acknowledgment, right to privacy, and right to determine the form, manner, and terms of publication and distribution.
Because electronic information is volatile and easily reproduced, respect for the work and personal expression of others is especially critical in computer environments. Violations of authorial integrity, including plagiarism, invasion of privacy, unauthorized access, and trade secret and copyright violations, may be grounds for sanctions against members of the academic community.
Questions You Might Have About Using Software
Q: What Do I Need to Know About Software and the US Copyright Act?
A: Unless it has been placed in the public domain, software is protected by copyright law. The owner of a copyright holds exclusive right to the reproduction and distribution of his or her own work. Therefore, it is illegal to duplicate or distribute software or its documentation without the permission of the copyright owner. If you have purchased your copy, however, you may make a backup for your own use in case the original is destroyed or fails to work.
Q: Can I Load Software I Have Purchased Myself?
A: If your software came with a clearly visible license agreement, or if you signed a registration card, READ THE LICENSE CAREFULLY before you use the software. Some licenses may restrict use to a specific computer. Copyright law does not permit you to run your software on two or more computers simultaneously unless the license agreement specifically allows it. It may, however, be legal to loan your software to a friend temporarily as long as you do not keep a copy.
Q: If Software is Not Copy Protected, Do I Have the Right to Copy It?
A: Lack of copy-protection does NOT constitute permission to copy software in order to share or sell it. Non-copy-protected software enables you to protect your investment by making a backup copy. In offering non-copy-protected software to you, the developer or publisher has demonstrated significant trust in your integrity. May I Copy Software That is Available Through Facilities On My Campus, so That I Can Use it More Conveniently in My Own Room? Software acquired by colleges and universities is usually licensed. The licenses restrict how and where the software may be legally used by members of the community. This applies to software installed on hard disks in microcomputer clusters (e.g., Internet Café), Computer Labs (e.g., Ransom Hall) or software distributed on disks by a campus lending Library, and software available on a campus mainframe or network. Some institutional licenses permit copying for certain purposes. Consult the OIT Help Desk (ext. 2208) if you are uncertain about the use of a particular software product.
Q: Isn't It Legally Fair Use to Copy Software If The Purpose In Sharing It Is Purely Educational?
A: NO. It is illegal for a faculty member or student to copy software for distribution among the members of a class, without permission of the author or publisher.