Volume VIII, No. 2, 2007 207 Issues in Information Systems
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ETHICS: ISSUESAND ANALYSIS
Alan R. Peslak, Ph.D., Penn State University, firstname.lastname@example.orgABSTRACT
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
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.
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