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Volume VIII, No. 2, 2007 207 Issues in Information Systems 
Alan R. Peslak, Ph.D., Penn State University, arp14@psu.eduABSTRACT
Unethical information technology behavior isestimated to cost billions of dollars of losses for businesses and corporations. This includes issuesassociated with information technology property. Asan example, software piracy is resulting in extremelylarge costs for IT (information technology) firms.This paper examines current views of informationtechnology property as measured by a series of sixcurrent information technology related propertyethical issues. The study surveys a cross-section of students, faculty, and professionals and analyzesrecognition of an ethical issue for each individualtopic. First, the study confirms that all the studied information technology property issues are generallyrecognized as important ethical topics. Age and gender are studied to determine demographicinfluences. Significant differences were found by ageand gender for some but not all property issues. Adiscussion and implications of this research are also presented.
information technology (IT), property, ITethics, business ethics, intellectual property
INTRODUCTIONIntellectual Property
This paper deals with the ethical issues associatedwith information technology property. A commonlegal definition of property “includes both real andpersonal property or any interest therein and meansanything that may be the subject of ownership”.(Dorchester County, 2005) Property generally takestwo forms – physical and intellectual. Physicalproperty includes all tangible items such as land,housing, or possessions. “Intellectual propertyrepresents the property of your mind or intellect. Itcan be an invention, trademark, original design or thepractical application of a good idea. In businessterms, this means your proprietary knowledge – a keycomponent of success in business today. It is oftenthe edge that sets successful companies apart and asworld markets become increasingly competitive,protecting your intellectual property becomesessential.” (Commonwealth of Australia, 2005)Though many studies have examined ethicalpositions on intellectual property, little work has beenperformed on the overall concept of propertyassociated with the information age includinghardware, software, data, and communicationsinfrastructure. Kini, H.V. Ramakrishna, B.S.Vijayaraman (2004) and Gupta, Gould, and Pola(2004) deal almost exclusively with software piracy.One of the few studies to examine the importance of more information technology property issues wasCalluzzo and Cante (2004), who included in theirinformation ethics survey other aspects of information property. This, then, is a broad study of information technology property includingintellectual as well as physical informationtechnology property.
Property rights
Traditionally, property rights, both physical andintellectual, have been guaranteed in the US andmany other countries’ constitutions. Even the UnitedNations in Article 17 of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states:“(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone aswell as in association with others.(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of hisproperty.”Due to the fundamental nature of these rights, theethical views of individuals on informationtechnology property issues hold importantsignificance. Property in the Information Age is acomplex concept involving many diverse topics.Ethical issues that affect information technologyproperty abound. Protecting property rights hasbecome difficult with the rise of intellectual propertyand the increase in violations of electronic physicalproperty through electronic invaders such as virusesand worms. This report reviews six currentinformation technology property issues and surveys asample of the population to see if they recognize theimportance of ethics related to these issues and/ortechnologies.
Recognition of an ethical issue
The recognition of the importance of ethical issues isbased on Rest’s (1986) multi-step model in ethicaldecision making. The first step in this process isrecognition of an ethical issue. Yuthas and Dillard
Information technology intellectual property ethics: issues and analysis Volume VIII, No. 2, 2007 208 Issues in Information Systems 
(1999) suggest that the complexity of issues dealingwith advanced technology has resulted in uniquechallenges for ethics development. According to theauthors, moral issues are not issues until we“recognize them as such.” This work is an attempt todetermine the level of recognition and importance of specific property topics as ethical issues, andaddresses this first step in the ethical decision makingprocess.This paper deals exclusively with the first componentin Rest’s (1986) ethical decision making model,recognizing moral issues. This model is supported bymany researchers including Jones (1991) andHarrington (1997) who refined this recognition into“interpretation of the situation or recognition of amoral issue”. Recognition of ethical issues is anecessary first step in moral development (Rest,Thoma, and Edwards, 1997) and has been shown tocorrelate to higher levels of moral development(Sweeney and Roberts, 1997).
The importance of ethical behavior in the use of information technology holds high relevance for bothbusinesses and researchers. Numerous researchstudies have been performed to assess the influencesof various factors on information technology ethicaldecisions. Peterson (2002, p.346) notes that“identifying factors that contribute to unethicalbehavior and developing methods of controllinginappropriate behavior in organizations is an area of increasing interest to academicians andpractitioners.” Laudon (1995) noted the “ethicalvacuum” in information technology. Smith andHasnas (1999) suggest that corporations areinstituting many new technologies and informationsystems initiatives without addressing the ambiguousethical environment and dangerous behaviors that canresult.The economic impact of unethical IT behavior isstaggering. Caluzzo and Cante (2004) note manyinstances of IT ethics shortcomings. They notesurveys that have shown that 45% of IT professionalsacknowledge engaging in unethical behavior.Another study recorded a 69% acknowledgment rate.They note a 1995 study that suggested worldwidesoftware piracy losses were estimated at $8 to 12billion and a 1999 study that reported that 50% of allsoftware in use in 1996 was illegally copied. In 1998,they note that 98% of software in China was illegallycopied. Dean (2005) discusses the impact andimportance of software piracy and intellectualproperty violations suggesting a $64 billion negativeimpact on taxes and reduction of 1.5 million jobs dueto piracy. Kini, Rominger, and Vijayaraman (2000)demonstrated the pervasive nature of software piracyin the US today.Understanding the influences on unethical ITbehavior can have major returns if addressed.Peterson (2002) notes the importance of improvingcomputer ethics citing many of the recent problemswith unethical behavior including software piracy,virus development and illegal access estimated atcosting corporations losses of billions of dollars peryear. Bass, Barnett, and Brown support theimportance of business ethics study suggesting thatunethical behavior “costs billions of dollars eachyear, damages the image of corporate America, andhas implications for the legitimacy of our socialinstitutions and the well-being of our society”.Banerjee, Cronan, and Jones (1998) note theimportance of understanding information technologyethical issues due to their potential in the corporatearena for significant security and productivity losses.They suggest that computer misuse has cost the USbillions of dollars per year and note that nearly half of clients surveyed suffered security related losses inthe last year. They also note that security measurescan have some impact in reducing losses but suggestthat individual ethical behavior can be improved. If ethical behavior can be improved, then these lossesand crimes can be reduced saving corporationsmillions if not billions of dollars. They suggest that inorder to improve IT ethics, “an overlooked andpotentially effective deterrent is the identification of unique and situational characteristics of IS personnelwho act ethically/unethically. Identification of uniquecharacteristics could lead to the formulation of moreeffective ways of solving the problem of unethicaluse or inappropriate use of computers.” They suggestthat methods to improve behavior after identificationinclude education and organizational environment.
There has been considerable research that has foundthat information technology ethical issues are beingrecognized by students and professionals alike. Hay,Larres, Oyere, and Fisher (2001) found ethicalperceptions of undergraduate students in “computer-related situations.” Oz (2001) found ethicalrecognition of IT situations among IT professionals.In the specific area of information technologyproperty, little comprehensive study has beenperformed. As a result, we propose hypothesis one toconfirm the likely scenario that as with other ethicalissues, there will be strong recognition of IT propertyethical issues among the surveyed population. As
Information technology intellectual property ethics: issues and analysis
Volume VIII, No. 2, 2007 209 Issues in Information Systems 
noted, this paper deals exclusively with the firstcomponent in Rest’s (1986) ethical decision makingmodel, recognizing moral issues.Hypothesis 1: Information technology propertyethical issues will viewed as important ethical issues.The exploration of the influences on IT ethicaldecision making has been shown to be an importantgoal for this study. Many researchers have studiedthe impact of age on ethical decision making. Twodemographic factors have been shown to sometimesaffect ethical decision making – age and gender. Agehas often been shown to affect ethical decisionmaking. Vitell (2003) found that older individualsmore readily follow ethical norms. As a result, wepropose that age will significantly affect views oninformation technology property issues. To test theeffect of age, hypothesis two was developed.Hypothesis 2: Age will significantly affectrecognition of the importance of property ethicsissues.A large body of research has investigated the impactof gender on ethical decision making. Loch andConger (1996) note “evidence of gender differencesin ethical intention formation”. Krete and Cronan(1998) found in all their information technologyethical scenarios that men were “less likely toconsider a behavior as unethical”. Hay, Larres,Oyelere, and Fisher (2001) studied the computerrelated situations and undergraduate students ethicalperceptions. The authors noted the significant bodyof literature that has suggested gender difference inbusiness and IT ethics decisions. Sigma-Mugan,Daly, Onkal, and Kavut (2005) studied the genderinfluence of ethical sensitivity. We propose thatgender will have an impact on property ethicsrecognition.Hypothesis 3: Gender will significantly affectrecognition of the importance of property ethicsissues.
As a part of a broader study, six items were includedin a questionnaire to explore recognition of currentinformation technology privacy topics as ethicalissues. The specific items were prepared after reviewof the literature. The first item is Use by others of software or other intellectual property you havecreated without your consent. This is found inCalluzzo and Cante (2004) who ask a similarquestion in their survey “Copying software from the job or school for personal use”. Their question is alsosimilar to the last topic in this survey but this firstquestion personalizes the intellectual propertyviolation to ascertain if individuals are moreconcerned about use of their intellectual propertyversus others’ intellectual property. Peterson (2002)includes a similar question. Nefarious attacks onnetwork and computer personal property are exploredin the next survey items. Development of viruses,worms, and Trojan horses is included as well asDistribution of viruses, worms, and Trojan horses.The remaining factor is Cracking into computers andnetworks with evil intent. Smith (2004) suggests that“Perhaps the most malicious and dangerous form of hacking has to do with the building and distributionof viruses, worms, and Trojan horses.” Webopedia(2004) notes: “Cracking is seen as breaking into acomputer system. The term was coined in the mid-80s by hackers who wanted to differentiatethemselves from individuals whose sole purpose is tosneak through security systems. Whereas
 sole aim is to break into secure systems, hackers aremore interested in gaining knowledge aboutcomputer systems and possibly using this knowledgefor playful pranks.” Piscatello (2004) notes “For ourpurposes, we'll expand the definition of cracker foundin the Jargon Dictionary to "one who breaks securityon a system or network or application". Crackingtypically involves writing software specificallydesigned to discover and exploit flaws in someoneelse's software.This survey utilized short statements similar toCalluzzo and Cante (2002) and Kini, Ramakrishna,and Vijayaraman (2004). The length of scenariosonly allows for a few ethical situations. And thespecific content endemic to ethical scenarios limit thegeneralizations that can be made. According to Rest,Edwards, and Thoma (1997) short statements tend tohave less bias than “longer orations”.The six item survey is presented in Table 1
Table 1.
Property ethics issuesUse by others of software or other intellectualproperty you have created without your consentDevelopment of Viruses, worms, and Trojan horsesHacking without evil intentCracking with evil intentDistribution of Viruses, Worms, and Trojan horsesMaking copies of someone else’s software for yourpersonal useAn online questionnaire was developed and tested toexplore recognition of these current information

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