Computing Ethics

Understanding Different Software Licenses

Computer software takes a lot of time, energy, and funds to develop properly. Depending on the particular software, the developer has the ability to attach a License Agreement to the software stating the rights the user of the software has with that particular application. One common thing that this License stipulates is the compensation the developer should receive for the use of their software.

There are many different kinds of software licenses associated with programs. Here are a few:

  • Freeware
    This software is written and distributed (largely over the Internet) by an individual or a company without the expectation or requirement of compensation. Individuals can possess, use, and distribute this type of software as long as the programmers’ names remain on the software and as long as the software is in its original form. Freeware typically consists of tools that let users manipulate files, are compression utilities, or certain other packages that everyone needs.
    Individual programmers felt that because these types of programs are essential, users should not have to spend money on them – this led to the creation of freeware. There is a large selection of freeware available for Linux systems, and a complete set of freeware tools by GNU is available on the Eos/Unity system.
  • Shareware
    Shareware software is distributed with a limited license. This typically means that users have a limited amount of time that they can use the program before being required to purchase the full version of the software. Additionally, shareware programs may have certain features disabled until the full license is purchased.
    The concept of shareware developed from the idea that software is expensive, and most users don’t want to invest in an expensive package if they don’t know what they are getting. Shareware allows users to “test drive” the program. These programs can be found on the internet, or they can be purchased (typically in disk form) from software stores.
  • Buyware
    Buyware is software that can be purchased for the full software price, and, by opening it, you are the owner of the license. Buyware may not be copied or distributed to other people. In addition, buyware can usually only be used by one individual on one computer at a time. The best example of this type of license is a copy of TurboTax for your computer.
  • Network License
    Most licenses are designed with the idea of one user or one computer in mind. There are special licensing schemes that are agreed upon by the software companies and the network owners for network software. For example, on Eos, we have different types of licenses for some of our different software packages. Some may only be used by a limited number of people at one time. The best example of a Network License would be NC State University’s Copy of Microsoft Office.

Computing Ethics on NC State University’s Campus

Some students may find it amusing to hack a lab machine, play pranks on friends, etc. These actions are unauthorized and therefore the individual can be charged with a misdemeanor whether the intended action was a joke or not. Unauthorized access on a university-owned machine is automatically considered a felony despite what the reason may be, or even if the individual does anything on the machine. This is because the law is written for the “state government,” and NC State’s computers qualify as state property.

Software is an easy thing to steal. As a result, computer piracy has become a big problem to the computer software industry. Often, computer piracy is intentional, like buying a program and then selling copies of it to many different people. An example of unintentional computer piracy is when a large organization has thousands of computers, and the employees may violate the legal agreement with their software supplier by accident. Whether you downloaded it, bought it illegally, or it was given to you, using software that has not been legally acquired by you or for you is stealing and illegal. The University has taken a firm stand on the illegal downloading of software in addition to music, movies, and other materials obtained via the Internet. The University will take immediate action when notified of alleged copyright infringements.

Below, you will find a link to the NC State Copyright Infringement website which has detailed information on what is and is not copyright infringement: 

NC State Copyright Infringement Website