Ethics in the Age of Information

The information age is the age we live in today, and with the

information age comes an age of ethics. When we deal with the new

technologies introduced every day, we need to decide what we must

consider ethical and unethical. We must consider all factors so that

the use of the information readily available to many persons is not

abused. "Information technology will be the most fundamental area of

ethical concern for business in the next decade" (Houston 2). The most

widely used tool of the information age is the computer, whether it be

a PC or a network of computer systems. As we enter the information age

the newness and power of information technologies tests the ethics of

the average person, not just the criminal and causes thousands of

computer crimes to be committed daily. The most common computer crime

committed daily, some aware and many not, is the illegal sharing of

computer software. Software is any of the programs used in operating a

digital computer, as input and output programs, as defined by Funk and

Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary. When you purchase computer

software, you purchase it with the underezding that it will be for

use on a single computer, once installed on that system, it is not to

be loaded on any other computer. However many people are not aware of

this underezding, and many load a program on a couple of computers

or on a whole network of computer systems not aware that they are

committing a crime. Even though you probably will not be prosecuted

for loading a program on a friends computer, this is where your ethics

come in. Do you consider anything when you share a program with

others? If not then consider the programmers of the software who are

denied compensation for their developments every time you distribute a

piece of software. "Why is it that people who wouldn't think of

stealing pack of gum will copy a $500 piece of software" (Houston 3)?

A popular form off illegal software distribution is throughout the

online world. Whether it be the Internet, America Online, CompuServe,

Prodigy, or a BBS (Bulletin Board System), software "pirates" thrive

freely online. These so called "pirates" operate by uploading pieces

of software, commonly referred to as "warez", into an online service's

database then sending through e-mail the rights to download them. "The

Information Superhighway has opened the door to a new kind of highway

robbery - the home shoplifting network" (Mattia 43). When you access a

online service, you are identified through an account which most

commonly consists of a user ID and password. The password is so you

only can access the online service with your user ID. Many people

online use their own accounts to access their service, but many steal

and use the accounts of others or make fake accounts. When online,

these account "pirates" many times trick other users into giving their

passwords to them by impersonating an employee of the online service.

Others can hack into the online services mainframe computer and steal

thousands of accounts. Probably the most common method of getting

online without paying is the use of fake or fraudulent accounts. These

are made by giving false information when attempting to gain access to

an online service. Name, address, phone number, and billing

information, such as checking account or credit card number, are all

falsified in obtaining an online account. With these stolen and fake

accounts, software "pirates" have virtually unlimited time to download

their "warez" without any charge to them. Many people don't consider

the people behind the creation of software when they illegally

distribute it. The developers of software are not properly compensated

for their work because of the extent of software piracy. No one can

argue with a software company's desire, and right, to make sure

everyone using their products has paid for it (Furger 73). The numbers

add up, it is estimated that in 1994 alone that software companies

lost $15 billion from illegal software copying (Maremont 65). It is

not only illegal, but clearly unethical to distribute software knowing

that the people behind the software are experiencing the downfalls of


Every time software companies cannot compensate their

programmers for their work, more people are out of a job. Consider

this, you enter a store and purchase an item, during this transaction

you give