Aug 15, 2019 in Technologies
Computer Ethics

Software Licensing

The event depicts a company willing not only to break its internal rules but also to install software on their computers illegally. Lakeside Industries contacted SciTech contracting services to install Netscape Navigator software on all of their computers. However, despite the fact that Lakeside Industries are mandated to pay a licensing fee to Netscape by the contract agreement between them and SciTech, they seem not to be willing to honor this. Moreover, it is in accordance with Lakeside Industries internal rules to pay for the installation and software using. Consequently, this presents a case of a company which wants to operate computer software illegally without authorization.

The situation puts SciTech in an ethical dilemma. They will have to choose whether to continue installing the software, which they had started before knowing Lakeside Industries had refused to pay for authorization, or raise the matter with Netscape, the software owner. Since failure to pay a licensing fee is a violation of Netscape licensing agreement, SciTech contracting services might be forced to either terminate the contract and/or to push the matter to Netscape navigator Software Company. This can be done through informing Netscape legal department. Consequently, if Lakeside will not honor the agreement, Netscape may be encouraged to file a court case against Lakeside Industries for violation of the Netscape licensing agreement.

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Kantian ethical theory is based on the idea of moral duty, which purports that action will only be good if it is done out of duty, rather than done out of desire or pure need. He claims that, whether an action is mandatory, it should not rely on the consequences, but on forces behind the action, along with compliance with categorical imperative principles. Notably, categorical imperative principle reasons that one should select a course of action with a view of initiating a policy, which can be adopted by everyone or even more, be willed into being a universal law.

Kant ethical principle provides a procedure through which one can identify whether an act is morally permissible or not. For instance, when one is contemplating to undertake a particular action, one should ask which rule is congruent with the action to be done. Consequently, one should know whether he/she is prepared for the rule to become a universal law, followed by everyone all the time. Then, if one is confident with that, it is perceived that the act is morally acceptable. On the other hand, if one is not willing to follow that particular rule, then the action is perceived as morally impermissible.

A perfect instance of Kantian ethics is to help an old lady to pass across a street for the reason that one feels pity for her is actually not morally right. Also, if one will help a lady because his neighbor will respect him, is not morally right. On the other hand, helping the old lady owing to the sense of duty to give a hand to the old is indeed a moral act.

SciTech has a moral duty to terminate the contract and report the matter to Netscape Navigator Software Company. This is because the contract between SciTech and Lakeside Industries mandates both parties to honor it. If one party does not honor the agreement, then the other has a duty to terminate the contract. Moreover, according to the described situation, SciTech is also mandated to report the matter to the relevant authorities, which, in this case, will be reporting the matter to the legal department of Netscape Navigator Software Company. According to Kantian ethics, it will be morally right for SciTech to stop installing the software in Lakeside Industries computers since they have a duty to do so as provided by the contract.

Moreover, Lakeside Industries should pay the license fee for the installation of Netscape software. According to their internal rules, they have a duty to pay for any software being installed on the company’s computers. The company had entered into an agreement with SciTech that they will be responsible for paying the licenses. This binds them to pay, and, therefore, it is their duty to do so.

ACM code of ethics and professional conduct requires property rights to be honored (ACM, n.d.). It states that copies of software should be made only with proper authorization; in addition, parties of a contract of agreement ensure they honor it. Therefore, in this case, authorization comes through paying a license fee. This code of ethics can offer a solution to the predicament since it clearly guides both parties to honor property rights. Subsequently, according to the code of ethics, it will be ethical if Lakeside Industries agrees to pay for the license.

Showing a lack of moral ethics by Lakeside Industries is likely to lead to the court injunction or a case since it is also illegal to use the software without proper authorization. This will affect both SciTech and Lakeside Industries since SciTech had agreed to start installing the software without first confirming whether Lakeside Industries have obtained authorization. To prevent such a situation from arising in the future, the computer company SciTech should ensure that their clients have fulfilled all their obligations. In this case, they should have started their work after Lakeside Industries have honored the agreement and have paid the license fee. This will prevent any eventuality where the client can lead the company into such an ethical dilemma.

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Borrowed Hardware Case

The case illustrates a situation in an insurance company, which needs to upgrade the software to be able to solve their present problems. Unfortunately, to do this, they need a server, which is big enough to run the software, since the current one cannot. In their search for a solution, one of the companies they cooperate with (Unique Corporation) offers to lend their server for testing purposes. At the same time, another company (MicroSquish) suggest their software as an alternative, but the insurance company’s computer is not powerful enough to run this software and MicroSquish cannot provide them with a server. Consequently, the company agent faces an ethical dilemma, where he thinks of using the Unique Corporation’s server to test the software from MicroSquish. Bearing in mind that the server belongs to the Unique Corporation, the agent does not know whether it is morally right to use it to test software from the Unique Corporation’s rival. In addition, if the agent uses the server to test MicroSquish software, there are chances that Unique Corporation will figure out MicroSquish coding secrets.

Utilitarian moral theories direct one into engaging in actions that will have the best outcomes or consequences. In other words, the utilitarian theory is more consequential. Specifically, an action is considered to be morally acceptable if the action or rules result in a greater good of the greatest number of people. The theory brings about a combination of ideas with the first one being that of determining the action to take, which obviously should be guided by the expected consequences of what one wants to do. Secondly, one is led to determining which of the consequences portrays the greatest good for the majority. The greatest good can be measured in terms of wellbeing, money, happiness, or pleasure. More importantly, the utilitarian principle presumes that each individual’s happiness is as essential as anyone else. The right, according to utilitarian theories, is defined in terms of the good.

A good example of the utilitarian theory is an event during World War II when America dropped an atomic bomb in Japan. Although many argue that demonstrating the force was not necessary since so many innocent people died, the action is regarded as morally right in accordance with utilitarian theory. This is because the evidence showed that the Japanese were also in the process of making a weapon of a similar magnitude that could also have been used against the USA. Moreover, it is also true that the bombing played a crucial role in scaring away other countries from getting involved and brought to the end of the war between Japan. There could be much more deaths of innocent people if America had not bombed Japan. Therefore, it can be said that the killing of innocent Japanese citizens was the price for the greatest good; hence, the action is considered as morally right.

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Likewise, in this case, the decision whether to use the server from Unique Corporation to test both Unique Corporation software and MicroSquish software should be based on which one will benefit most. For instance, if the insurance company does not use the server to test both software products, then it will have to undergo an extra cost for finding another server. However, the action will not provide extra benefits to either of the two software companies. On the other hand, if the insurance company uses Unique Corporation server to test both Unique Corporation software and MicroSquish software, then the company will save a good amount of money. In addition, chances are that Unique Corporation will benefit by obtaining MicroSquish coding secrets, although this might ruin the future of MicroSquish in software designs. Therefore, according to utilitarian theory, it will be right for the insurance company to use Unique Corporation server to test both Unique Corporation software and MicroSquish software since the action has the greatest good.

According to the ACM code of ethics and professional conduct, together with the engineering code of ethics and professional practice, it is proper to honor confidentiality (ACM, n.d.). More importantly, IT professionals are mandated by the code to ensure the confidentiality of not only employers but also of clients and users. Moreover, the code asserts that a software engineer should use the client’s property or that of the employer only in ways authorized and with the client's consent and knowledge. Additionally, software engineers are not supposed to promote interest that will eventually be adverse to the client or employer. Therefore, the code implies that it will be wrong to use Unique Corporation server to test MicroSquish software. Even though this is contrary to utilitarian theory, the solution for the insurance company then will be to look at some other method to test MicroSquish software.

If the insurance company uses Unique Corporation server to test MicroSquish software, then chances are that Unique Corporation will benefit by obtaining MicroSquish coding secrets, an action that might ruin the future of MicroSquish in the software market. Inherently, the action will also lead to mistrust between MicroSquish and the insurance company when MicroSquish will transpire everything. It would be better if the insurance company invests in a larger server if they really want to upgrade their systems.

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