Ethical, Cultural and Socio- Economic Factors of Software Piracy Determinants in a Developing Country: Comparative Analysis of Pakistani and Canadian University Students

Ethical, Cultural and Socio- Economic Factors of Software Piracy Determinants in a Developing Country: Comparative Analysis of Pakistani and Canadian University Students

Arsalan Butt (Simon Fraser University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-022-6.ch024
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Consumer software piracy is widespread in many parts of the world. P2P based websites have made it easier to access pirated software, which has resulted in an increased emphasis on the issue of software piracy in both the software industry and research community. Some factors that determine piracy include poverty, cultural values, ethical attitudes, and education. Earlier empirical studies have looked at software piracy as an intentional behaviour. This study explores the demographic, ethical and socioeconomical factors that can represent software piracy as a social norm among a developing country’s university students. The authors have conducted a comparative analysis of university students from Pakistan and Canada, two countries that differ economically, socially, and culturally. The results of the study indicate that software piracy behaviour is different in both groups of students, but that there are also some similarities. Future research directions and implications are also presented.
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If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively posses as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Invention then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

-Thomas Jefferson

Congress shall have power … to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

-The Constitution of the United States, Article 1, Section 8, 1788



Ethicist Richard Mason (1986) identified four main ethical issues of the information age: privacy, accuracy, property and accessibility. It has been suggested that Mason’s work was very significant in the field of Management Information Systems ethics (Freeman & Peace, 2005). Mason (1986) considered intellectual property (IP) “as one of the most complex issues we face as a society” (p. 9). Mason identified bandwidth as the real threat in the digital world and viewed it as a scarce and fixed commodity at the time. However, with the rapid progress of hardware and software technology, bandwidth has increased immensely and has therefore made peer-to-peer (P2P) technology possible making e-file sharing a matter of few mouse clicks.

According to Husted (2000), knowledge and information are now more important factors in a national economy than the traditional physical assets that used to indicate economic well-being. Therefore, the protection of intellectual property (IP) has received increased attention in the recent past. Intellectual property refers to “the results of intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields” (Forester & Morrison, 1990, p. 31). A government plays its role to protect the rights of owners by preventing unauthorised use of this intellectual property for a limited period of time (Seyoum, 1996) by using different measures such as copyrights, trade agreements and patents. Legality aside, there are ethical and moral issues that have risen from the use of software and its unauthorised copying both at the consumer and commercial level. The concept of Technoethics1 deals with such aspects of technology. “It designates that portion of ethics which deals with questions arising from technological development and activities. More precisely, technoethics deals with moral questions governing or resulting from the conception, production, distribution and the use of artifacts or technological systems” (Findeli, 1994, p. 50). In our chapter’s context technoethics or ethics refers to the moralities and ethical values presumed or perceived with the use and copying of commercial software.

Software is a form of intellectual property and its unauthorized duplication is a crime. However, the practice of making illegal copies of software amounts to high rates in various parts of the world and in environments such as universities, businesses, and government, the behaviour has become socially acceptable (Sims, Cheng, and Teegen 1996; Cheng, Sims, and Teegen 1997; Hinduja 2001; Christensen and Eining 1991).

Key Terms in this Chapter

a. Softlifting: It occurs when a person purchases a single licensed copy of a software program and loads it on several machines, in violation of the terms of the license agreement. Typical examples of softlifting include, “sharing” software with friends and co-workers and installing software on home/laptop computers if not allowed to do so by the license. In the corporate environment, softlifting is the most prevalent type of software piracy - and perhaps, the easiest to catch

Software Piracy: Unauthorized duplication of computer for personal and/or commercial purposes. Types of software piracy addresses in this chapter (Source: ):

b. Hard-Disk Loading: It occurs when an individual or company sells computers preloaded with illegal copies of software. Often this is done by the vendor as an incentive to buy certain hardware.

c. CD-R Piracy: It is the illegal copying of software using CD-R recording technology. This form of piracy occurs when a person obtains a copy of a software program and makes a copy or copies and re-distributes them to friends or for re-sale. Although there is some overlap between CD-R piracy and counterfeiting, with CD-R piracy there may be no attempt to try to pass off the illegal copy as a legitimate copy - it may have hand-written labels and no documentation at all

P2P: Source ( ): Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is a system of sharing files directly between network users, without the assistance or the interference of a central server

Individualism and Collectivism: Source: , An individualistic society is one in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. The word ‘collectivism’ in this sense has no political meaning: it refers to the group, not to the state. Again, the issue addressed by this dimension is an extremely fundamental one, regarding all societies in the world

Culture: Source: Hofstede (1997): “The collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.”

d. Internet Piracy: It is the uploading of commercial software (i.e., software that is not freeware or public domain) on to the Internet for anyone to copy or copying commercial software from any of these services. Internet piracy also includes making available or offering for sale pirated software over the Internet. Examples of this include the offering of software through an auction site, IM, IRC or a warez site. Incidences of Internet piracy have risen exponentially over the last few years

Intellectual Property: Source Forester & Morrison (1990): Results of intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields

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