Software Piracy: A Study of Formative Factors

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Previous research studied on information ethics have addressed the issue of misuse of computer technology through the concepts of reasoned action and planned behavior. These studies are based on attitudes toward behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. Current evidence from research indicates self-efficacy can be an important factor with the level of commitment and persistence in the attempt to influence human behavior. Since information ethics requires businesses to assess the ethical behavior of their employees and the security of their information systems, this paper empirically examines the effect of gender, age, education and religious commitment on ethical computer self-efficacy as it relates to software piracy. The data analysis revealed age and education have an effect on the propensity to pirate software. However, no significant differences between genders or religious commitment and the propensity to commit software piracy were found. This research discusses the significance of these findings and makes recommendations for future research.

Introduction

Information ethics is receiving considerable attention as software manufacturers begin to hire "watchdog" agencies to enforce compliance with their software licensing agreements. According to a survey by the Software & Information Industry Association and KPMG LLP in 2001, more than 50% of the business respondents stated they did not know if a company policy existed pertaining to the redistribution of illegally acquired software and content on the web (SIIA & KPMG, 2001). There accordingly is an interest to develop ethical awareness or social conscience with the use of technology in the work environment.

The misuse of computers, such as copying of unprotected software, impacted the nation's economy in the year 2000 causing 109,000 lost jobs, $4.5 billion in lost wages and almost $1 billion in lost tax revenues (Geller, 2002). Many factors have been proposed to explain an interest in information ethics, including resource constraint (Eining & Christensen, 1991), social norm (Harrington, 1996), personal gain, (Simpson, Banerjee, & Simpson, 1994), environmental stimulus, (Loch & Conger, 1996), and legal factors (Bommer, Gratto, Gavander & Turtle, 1987).

The rapid growth of the Internet has prompted the development of ethical norms and legislation to deal with issues of ownership, responsibility, personal privacy, and access (Mason, 1986; Loch & Conger, 1996). The development of a generic code of ethics attempts to address concerns of all parties in the milieus: society at large, nations, companies, professional organizations, and individuals. According to Anderson, Johnson, Gotterbarn, and Perrolle (1993), one such generic code is the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

The philosophy of this generic code of ethics recognizes the importance of a set of commitments by members to an association such as the ACM or other societies may play. The set of commitments may be expressed in the form of rules and ideals that explain the ethical requirements considered important to the group as a professional association. Anderson et al. (1993) recognizes that an educationally oriented code of ethics is useful because it identifies the professional responsibilities to society. The benefit of having a code of ethics is the accountability of the profession to the public. Lastly, the most important function of a code of ethics is if it enhances the decision making process by providing examples of practicable applications through case analysis.

However, Loch and Conger (1996) believe generic codes cannot address all ethical behaviors because they attempt to span milieus over which they have limited influence. Kreie and Cronan (2000) indicate the need for businesses to consider specific guidelines, policies, and training. They state:

Businesses can encourage ethical decision-making by having a written code of ethics and providing ethics training, such as discussion of ethical scenarios, to help employees understand what is expected. …