The Rights and Duties of Software Users: An Examination of the Ethics of Software Ownership

David Douglas (2011). The Rights and Duties of Software Users: An Examination of the Ethics of Software Ownership PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

       
Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your UQ eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
abstract.pdf Thesis Abstract application/pdf 42.41KB 1
s33755997_PhD_finalthesis.pdf Final Thesis application/pdf 1.05MB 14
Author David Douglas
Thesis Title The Rights and Duties of Software Users: An Examination of the Ethics of Software Ownership
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-03
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Julian Lamont
Kimberlee Weatherall
Total pages 200
Total black and white pages 200
Language eng
Subjects 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies
Abstract/Summary Software ownership significantly affects the users of information technology as it allows owners to withhold rights from users and also impose duties upon them. This thesis evaluates this ownership by determining the rights and duties users should hold by using a conceptual framework of rights and duties over software to evaluate the major arguments for and against software ownership. I begin by describing the relevant aspects of software and the intellectual property laws covering it, and the software licenses defining the rights and duties of software users. I distinguish between three groups of people associated with any software project: creators (those who write the software), custodians (those who control the rights and duties others have over the software), and users (those who use the software). These classifications are used to define a set of rights and duties that these groups may possess over a particular program. The major categories of software ownership (such as the public domain, free software, open source, freeware, shareware, and retail software) are described in terms on this framework. I use this framework to determine the particular rights creators and custodians can justifiably withhold from users based on the three arguments most frequently given for why software creators should have greater control over the software they develop. These arguments claim that the creator’s labour in developing her software grants her an entitlement to claim ownership over it (the labour entitlement argument), that the creator deserves to own her program as a reward for developing it (the desert argument), and that granting ownership to creators is the most effective incentive for encouraging software development (the consequentialist incentive argument). I then examine the three major arguments for giving users greater control over software to determine the particular rights and duties that these arguments require users to possess. These arguments are that software ownership causes an unjustified social harm (the social disutility argument), that granting users more rights over software improves software quality (the open source argument), and that users need greater control over the software they use to protect their autonomy (the liberty argument). After evaluating these arguments, I conclude by comparing the different bundles of rights and duties each argument grants users to determine if there is any agreement between them over the particular rights and duties that should be granted to users and which rights creators and custodians can legitimately withhold from them. Finally, I compare the rights and duties that various kinds of software licenses grant users and determine whether they grant users the bundle of rights and duties that are justified by the arguments discussed.
Keyword software
open source
intellectual property
Rights and Duties
Free software
Computer Ethics
copyright
property rights
Information technology

 
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Access Statistics: 124 Abstract Views, 15 File Downloads  -  Detailed Statistics
Created: Wed, 16 Nov 2011, 15:39:13 EST by Mr David Douglas on behalf of Library - Information Access Service