A Guide to the Ethical and Legal Use of Software for Members of the St. Olaf Community
Software enables us to accomplish many different tasks with computers. Unfortunately, in order to get their work done quickly and conveniently, some people make and use unauthorized software copies. They may not understand the implications of their actions or the restrictions of U.S. copyright law.
- Relevant Facts
- EDUCOM Statement on Software
- Questions About Using Software
- Public Domain Software
Unauthorized copying of software is illegal. Copyright law protects software authors and publishers in much the same way that patent law protects inventors.
Unauthorized copying of software by individuals can harm the entire academic community. If unauthorized copying prolif-erates on a campus, the institution may incur legal liability. Also, the institution may find it more difficult to negotiate agreeme nts that would make software more widely and less expensively available to members of the academic community.
Unauthorized copying and use of software deprives developers of a fair return for their work, increases prices, reduces the level of future support and enhancements, and can inhibit the development of new software products. Respect for the intellectual work and property of others has traditionally been essential to the mission of colleges and universities. Just as we do not tolerate plagiarism, we do not condone unauthorized copying of software, including programs, applicati ons, data bases, and code.
Respect for intellectual labor and creativity is vital to academic discourse and enterprise. This principle applies to works of all authors and publishers in all media. It encompasses respect for the right to acknowledge-ment, right to privacy, and right to determine the form, manner, and terms of publication and distribution.
Because electronic information is volatile and easily reproduced, respect for the work and per-sonal expression of others is especially critical in computer environments. Violations of authorial integrity, including plagiarism, invasion of privacy, una uthorized access, and trade secret and copyright violations, may be grounds for sanctions against members of the aca-demic community.
What do I need to know about software and the U.S. Copyright Act?
Unless it has been placed in the public domain, software is protected by copyright law. The owner of a copyright holds exclusive right to the reproduction and distribution of his or her work. Therefore, it is illegal to duplicate or distribute software or its docu-mentation without the permission of the copyright owner. If you have purchased your copy, however, you may make a backup for your own use in case the original is destroyed or fails to work.
May I copy software that is available through facilities on campus, so that I can use it more conveniently in my own office?
Software acquired by colleges and universities is usually licensed. The licenses restrict how and where the software may be legally used by members of the community. This applies to software installed on microcomputer hard disks, software in all media (in cluding disks, tapes, and CD ROM's) distributed by the Academic or Administrative Computing Center, and software available via the servers or central systems. (Some institutional licenses permit copying for certain purposes. Consult the Academic or Admini strative Computing Center if you are uncertain about the use of a particular software product.)
Can I loan software that I have purchased myself?
If your software came with a clearly visible license agreement, or if you signed a registra-tion card, read the license carefully before you use the software. Some licenses may restrict use to a specific computer. Copyright law does not permit you to run your software on two or more computers simultaneously unless the license agreement specifically allows it. It may, however, be legal to loan your software to a friend temporarily as long as you do not keep a copy to run concurrently.
If software is not copy-protected, do I have the right to copy it?
Lack of copy-protection does not constitute permission to copy software in order to share or sell it. Non-copy-protected software enables you to protect your investment by making a backup copy. In offering non-copy-protected software to you, the developer or publisher has demonstrated significant trust in your integrity.
Isn't it legally "fair use" to copy software if the purpose in sharing it is purely educational?
No. It is illegal for a faculty member or student to copy software for distribution among the members of a class without permission of the author or publisher.
Sometimes authors dedicate their software to the public domain, which means that it is not subject to any copyright restrictions and can be copied freely.
Software without copyright notice is often, but not necessarily, in the public domain. Before you distribute software that is not explicitly in the public domain, check with Information Technology (IT).
Shareware, or "user-supported" software, is copyrighted software that the developer encourages you to copy and distribute to others. The permission is explicitly stated in the documentation or displayed on the computer screen. The developer of shareware usually asks for a small donation or registration fee if you like the software and plan to use it. By registering, you may receive further documentation, updates, and enhancements. You are also supporting future software development.
This brochure was prepared and distributed by the Academic Computing Center of St. Olaf College with information provided by:
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