File Management and Protection/Ethical Issues/Copyright

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Deals with author‘s work (can be printed or software) which has legal copyright protection ( © the copyright symbol).

Copyright is a legal claim to ownership of ideas, expressions, concepts, printed material, software programs
Software programs or books become the author‘s intellectual property under the control of the company they are working for (the company has the legal copyright ownership)
The © symbol warns – illegal to copy!!

Copyright concept

Copyright refers to the legally protected right to publish and distribute any literary, musical, artistic or software material. This means that only the developer and authorised sellers have the right to copy and distribute computer software, video materials, music or text.

Because there is no control over the Internet, there are hundreds of sites where software, music and videos can be downloaded. Access to permanent connections makes downloading of large files physically possible. Many of these sites are located in countries that do not protect copyright.

The fact that it is possible to copy/download something, does not make it legally and ethically right. Authors and developers are entitled to a return on their creative efforts. Downloading pirated material is both ethically and legally wrong. By reducing revenue, piracy can hamper the development of software. Software development is expensive and part of the royalties are needed for future development.

Software piracy is a form of theft. It is both a criminal and a civil offence. Developers are entitled to claim damages in cases of piracy. Increasingly they are making use of all legal avenues to reduce piracy and obtain compensation where it has occurred. They are entitled to claim damages against not only sites, organisations and individuals who make pirated software available, but also those who make use of it.

Downloading from the Internet is not the only form of software piracy. Making copies of software, other than for personal use, as well as installing software on more computers than specified in the licence agreement are also forms of piracy.  

Copyright issues

When you purchase software, you are actually purchasing the right to install the software on a specified number of machines. Software usually comes out in two forms, standalone and network. When you purchase standalone software, you are purchasing the right to install it on a single machine. Generally there are further restrictions that are specified in the licence agreement.

When you purchase a network version of the software, you purchase the right to install the software on computers attached to a particular network. This may give you the right to install it on all the computers on the network or a certain maximum number.

It is important to realise that you do not purchase the actual program. The program remains the intellectual property of the developer. The concept of intellectual property is used as the developer owns something abstract, something which is the result of considerable intellectual effort. This also means that you do not have the right to alter the program in any way other than the configuration allowed in the installation.

However, you may store the program on CD, DVD, or hard drive, the program still remains the intellectual property of the developer. This does not mean that you may lend the stored program out to others, though. This would be a breach of copyright. The stored version is for that purpose only as a backup and for the licensed user only.


Shareware is software, generally downloaded from the Internet, which can be freely used and distributed. However, it does require that if users would like to continue using it, they pay the developer a fee. This is nearly always done by means of a credit card transfer across the Internet. When payment is received, users get a serial number which they insert into the software.


Freeware is software which can be freely copied and distributed. Usually there are certain restrictions such as it may not be resold or its source should be acknowledged.