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Software Piracy From An Islamic Perspective Information Technology Essay

2959 words (12 pages) Essay in Information Technology

5/12/16 Information Technology Reference this

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Software piracy is considered to be unethical as such act may hugely affect the right of ones ownership towards his/her products and piece of works. However, statistics (refer:http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_sof_pir_rat-crime-software-piracy-rate) indicate that the rate of software piracy is high especially among the developing nations, in which majority of them are Muslims. In fact, this problem seems to have no ending point despite all the efforts and initiatives done either at the individual, group, national or international levels.

Discuss this critical issue of software piracy in the light of Islamic point of view on ethics and ownership.

Everywhere in the face of this earth, the issue of using pirated software is widely talked and discussed by people. However, do people really understand and know what is the meaning of software piracy, the copyright infringement of software (often referred to as software piracy) refers to several practices which involve the unauthorized copying of computer software. Copyright infringement of this kind is extremely common. Most countries have copyright laws which apply to software, but the degree of enforcement varies [1] . There are several reasons not to use pirated or pirate software. Firstly, it is illegal and there is liability on your part. It’s risky. If the software is from an unauthorized source, you could be getting a program that is not fully functional. Secondly, there won’t be another version of the software if there is no revenue to put back into research and development. This revenue has made the product affordable to legitimate users. Thirdly, it is totally not ethical. Or we like to say “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” Ask yourself how you would feel if your life’s work went without compensation? Start now and be an ethical professional. [2] 

Software piracy refers to the act of copying different computer software without having to pay for them. This is a form of stealing intellectual property. Intellectual property and copyright fall under the same area which declared that copyright provides legal rights exclusively given for a definite periods to the creators of an intellectual work, e.g. literary works (anything in writing), artistic works (drawings, maps, plans etc), musical works, films, sound recordings, computer programs (source and object code) for sale or any other use. It is, in principle, not concerned with things that are not perceivable, such as abstract ideas, concept, and the like. Copyright protection begins when works are actually created and fixed in a tangible form. the emerging digital technology, increasing use of computers, communication technology and their convergence into an integrated information technology, have given rise to challenging legal issues for copyright and many mire are expected in the future, the ease of distribution, altering digital information and proliferation of computer networking, raise concerns about copyright. Copyright was designed for three basic reasons: to reward creators for their original works: to encourage availability of the works to the public; and to facilitate access and use of copyrighted works by their public in certain circumstances. [3] 

As mentioned before, software piracy is illegal. Sarcastically, many who are ‘practicing’ and involving in pirate software are fully aware of the legalities, though they are able to reduce continuing the practice. Some think about the only solution that works without splurging too much money on purchasing the product.

Around the world, authorities are already enlisted and stated the laws regarding software piracy, these are some of them: [4] 

Counterfeit Copies – Producing counterfeit copies and selling them to other consumers is a grave offense. There are different punishments in different countries but all are in agreement that making money off of someone else’s intellectual property is an offense. This includes making copies of different software, such as games, video games and other software that is used for the computer.

Distributing Counterfeit Copies – Creating counterfeit copies and giving them away is also a form of piracy. Even if the person does not charge anything for these copies, it is considered an offense as the person is not the owner of the copyright or does not have the consent of the copyright owner to distribute the copies. This is one of the most rampant piracy practices that the anti-piracy association is trying to fight.

Selling Computers with Pre-installed Pirated Software – Although the item for sale here is the computer, this is considered an offense as the computer for sale is loaded with different pirated programs. This act is also known as hard disk loading. This is considered an offense because the consumer who will buy the computer does not receive the copy of the original program and the other items included with it, including the CDs or license agreements.

Online Sharing – Sharing of software online is prohibited. Freeware and shareware programs are the only programs that can be distributed online. Other software is not allowed to be shared with other people over the Internet. This also includes piracy music. The Internet can be used as a means of transmitting illegal software to different people around the world. This is the case for plenty of copyright software.

Shareware with No License – Although shareware can be legally distributed over the Internet, it becomes illegal when the license for use has already expired. This works for software that can be downloaded for a free trial. Using this software after the free trial has expired is considered software piracy. Software licensing must be acquired before these shareware programs can be shared with anyone else.

Islam is supposed to be a complete way of life. A Muslim is bound by Islamic rules and hence is obliged to follow the instructions as prescribed in the Quran and Hadiths. Islam is a religion based upon the surrender to God (Allah). The very name of the religion, al-Islam in Arabic, means submission and peace, for it is in submitting to God’s will that human beings gain peace in their lives in this world and in the hereafter. Islam is considered to be a comprehensive religion and its ethical system is considered to be one of the major ethical systems. Owing to the importance of establishing an ethical system in the field of IT, especially at our present time which is witnessing an ever increasing ethical problems, several specialist organizations have prepared codes of ethics to be complied with by members of those organizations. [5] 

The main agendas which can be recognized to ethics in relation to information technology can be tied down to hacking, privacy, software piracy and IT personnel work ethics. By taking into deeper look, we begin to realize that ethics and information technology involve more issues which on the whole are just as worst. These are some issues related:

Computer professionals’ responsibilities towards their employers and their clients;

Proper documentation of software by designers and developers;

Proper testing of software by designers and developers;

Handover of systems to clients;

Designers and developers leaving a computer project mid-stream;

Providing maximum security of software to clients;

Computer professionals honoring the proprietary issues relating to the algorithms, procedures and data;

Computer professionals working towards accurate systems with the aim of

Complete data integrity; and

Computer professionals’ involvement in developing systems aimed at unethical ends.

In defining the concept of “harm” that can be done by an IT professional or just normal people and civilians, harm can be defined as the undesired effects to individuals or organizations resulting from any task or system (software) used. In order to avoid the harm Allah has warned us to be honest and trustworthy through his word of wisdom which is Al-Qur’an in Surah 13, Ayah 119: “O ye who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are truthful.” And Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said: “The trader must avoid five qualities, otherwise he should not buy or sell: Usury, swearing by God that the merchandise is good, withholding the defect, commending (the commodity) when selling and belittling (it) when he is buying” (Tahtheeb al-Ahkam Ch. 7). [6] 

The verses above clearly emphasize the importance of telling the truth and how God perceives those who tell the truth and how they are rewarded. The first verse encourages people to be in the group of those who are honest and only tell the truth whilst the second verse portrays the great reward of those who were truthful on earth.

Suggest potential solutions to – at least – minimize the act of software piracy among these societies.

Before we can move on to the deeper solutions, why not we discover what the real are cause the occurrence of software piracy. Causes of piracy and counterfeiting may include rising cost of original software, making them unaffordable to a large segment of the population, advances in technology (tools for reproduction of copyright product) making piracy an easy task, low starting cost for pirating, absence or lack of enforcing copyright laws, huge profits can be made easily by pirates and weak deterrent (fines and prison sentences are minimal).

The literature suggests that many factors explain the software piracy phenomena. These factors are grouped into four categories: first is an economic factor; suggest that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is inversely related to software piracy level. Given the decrease in software prices, it may be that a country’s GDP has a less effect on piracy than it did some years ago. Second is ethnical factors; software piracy is assumed to be more prevalent in nations with a weak IT infrastructure since the quality of available software is lower. Thus, people often copy and work with pirated software. The problem is compounded as software revisions occur. While the need to remain competitive through upgrades is important, it is worthwhile only when affordable. Thirdly is regulatory factors; developing countries may unintentionally encourage software piracy by imposing high tariffs, hence increasing the cost of software. It is also believed that lack of penalties for buying pirated software are also reasons for piracy growth. And lastly social/cultural factors; these factors refer to the prevailing social and cultural attitudes shared by members of a society. Many studies have indicated that the culture factor influences a country’s software piracy rate. [7] 

Getting through with the causes, the disadvantages are seen to come along due to lack of public awareness of in third world countries. There is probably the lost revenue to the companies and countries involved, the increased prices by software companies to compensate for losses, lost jobs wherever software companies have plants, lost domestic and foreign investments, lost trust in the ability of some countries to protect intellectual property, immoral activity condemned by all religions, illegal activity leading to prosecution and increased international pressure at the economic, financial, Political level. According to Robert Hollyman, BSA president and chief executive officer, software piracy robs the global economy of hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wages and tax revenues. [8] 

Given the situation of software piracy in campus since it is a small community yet has quite big of potential software piracy practice. Software piracy on college campuses may be generally divided into two categories. The first occurs when the institution itself is violating copyright law. This results when installations of software programs are in excess of the terms stated in the licensing agreement or under law. For example, software that is licensed for use on a single machine is installed on many computers or on a network server, allowing unlimited access. Oftentimes, the school is unaware of the problem as a result of poor or no software management.

In other instances the school simply cannot afford to buy software and chooses to risk the infringements. Students more commonly conduct the second type of piracy. In this scenario the piracy often takes place on the Internet where students trade or simply give away software programs as one would trade. If the students are using the school’s network or computers to facilitate their illegal activity, the college itself may be held liable. All members of the campus community can take steps to prevent such illegal activity and minimize misuse of computer resources. It is important to promote an understanding of the law and to ensure that specific procedures and protocols are implemented to establish a foundation on which illegal activity may be prevented. [9] 

Discussing these two issues, there are five solutions offered to enable schools to be software legal:

Appoint a software manager.

Create and implement a computer usage policy, including software and Internet access.

Conduct periodic software audits.

Establish and maintain a software log of licenses and registration materials.

Teach and promote awareness of software compliance.

It is stated above that in the case of school, college or university software piracy where some solutions are proposed but, generally these are some more solutions and tips to prevent or lessen the software piracy. The first tip is by applying the code key – For the past 5 to 7 years, software developers have devised a plan to lessen or prevent software piracy. This is by using a code key. A code key comes with the software that you buy. Before fully installing the software on your computer, you must provide the specific code key that came with the software. After providing the code key, you can run the software on your computer. The code key also locks after it has been used. This is so that the software cannot be installed on other computers after it has been installed on one. You will have to call the manufacturer of the software to be able to use the code key again. This is not good news to people who pirate software.

Secondly is the introduction of open source; described as free software that anyone can download from the Internet. A lot of different software can are licensed as open source. Open source software is under the license free software license. There are also different upgrades for these open source software that can also be freely downloaded from the Internet. By using open source software, people don’t need to worry about spending a lot of money for original copies of software. This will also lessen the number of people who are using pirated software as there are alternative programs that can be used and they do not have to pay fines when they are caught.

Third is the hardware key; a hardware key is a device that is used for anti-piracy. This tool prevents software vendors to distribute their products or use them without authorization from the copyright owner of the software. The hardware key works when it is attached to a computer. It monitors software licensing and enforces licensing of the protected software that is detected on the computer. This tool will lessen software vendors from illegally distributing the software that they have and is a good prevention measure for piracy.

And lastly is anti-piracy software; there are different types of anti-piracy software that are available for free. Anti-piracy software is used to prevent illegal duplication or illegal use of copyrighted software. There is also an anti-piracy software that prevents hackers from getting into the software and copying it without consent from the copyright owner. Some of them are also already integrated on the disks of the software that contains the program. This may also be for piracy music. The anti-piracy association is also looking for other ways to prevent software piracy. Reporting anti-piracy may prevent it from happening. [10] 

These are some of the measures that have been implemented or created to stop and prevent software piracy. With the improvement of technology, there are a lot of things people can use to bypass these piracy measures but there are always new and effective things to use against piracy.

The issue of software piracy seems to remain a permanent feature of the marketplace. It is a problem that will not go away, but it can be controlled or curbed to reduce its negative effect on the companies and countries involved. There are some measures that can be taken to reduce piracy acts and the losses associated with them. Piracy is not going to be eliminated or eradicated from the world, but it sure can be curbed and reduced to its minimum activities with the cooperation of the developed and the developing countries in taking these drastic measures to make the world a better place to live.

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