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IPR Violations in Software Development

Reasons for IPR violations in software development

Many people engage in Intellectual Property Regulation violations for different reasons. One main reason that standout is ignorance. Most organizations are unable to cope with the upward trend in technology and are lagging. However, they have to keep profitability and survival rates high. In the process of narrowing the gap, most organizations have found themselves using software and technology from other organizations or people without seeking authorization of regulations governing such software. Most organizations and individuals are not familiar with IPRs thereby ending up violating them. Lester and Koehler observe that over $11.4 billion is lost worldwide annually in global revenue due to piracy in application software (2003). Another major reason for violating IPRs is the high cost of owning legitimate software copies and the cost of updating software to keep them up to date. This is especially the case in countries with low per capita income and where purchasing software is not possible in local currencies. This causes a major difference in cost between pirated and legitimate software thereby motivating individuals to go for the pirated one according to Koehler and Pemberton (2000).

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Violation of IPRs is easy nowadays because of easy access to data without detection. Data stored electronically is easily accessible, manipulated, and destroyed without the permission of the owner. Sophisticated communication systems have made cyber crimes possible and go undetected. Most violations recorded daily are novel and leave professionals with hard choices to make. This because the violators most times do not belong to the Information Systems profession and the crimes are cannot be regulated using regulations already in place.

Ethical implications of IPR violations in software development

Violation of IPR has different ethical implications some of which are common in different countries. One major and common implication is the loss of revenues for rightful owners of the software. Violation of IPR leads to evasion of tax since the software that is illegally used is unaccounted for in revenues. Owners of the software do not benefit from their hard work. In most cases, people who access pirated software do so from peddlers who sell at cheaper prices. This is especially the case in Licensed Source Code and Copyrighted or Credited Source Code where the development in place does not abide by the laid rules. Use of these codes without paying for the same contributes to lost revenues. This attributes to over $12 billion loses in revenues, in instances where companies use software developed from other code sources and claim to be their own according to Feather and Sturges (2003).

IPR violations lead to violators losing money from penalties, which in most times are higher than the value of purchasing pirated software. Whamp-O paid $ 70,894 in fines for pirated software, while Burt’s Bees paid $ 110,000 for the same to Business Software Alliance (Zwass, 2003). Besides fines for pirating, violators have to meet legal expenses for cases involving software copyrighting in some circumstances. Violators also kill talent in competition by copyrighting. Many programmers quit software development once they realize other people might be benefiting from their work more than they do. Legal actions against violators lead to loss of trust from users of the said software. Lack of integrity and violation of regulations has led to a loss of crucial trade secrets and programs thereby compromising genuine competition.

International regulations for IPR violations in software development

Most international regulations rely on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and Universal Copyright Convention (UCC). In the United States, UCC was restructured in 2002 to include regulating matters about software issues. This is through three major categories namely copyright law, trade secret law, and patent law. Capurro observes that software dealing with “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof” is categorized under patents (2000). This is an exclusive right granted by the government to practice the invention and show it to the public for a certain period. This enables inventors to express ideas and can gain from them without violating regulations.

There are regulations for trade secrets in the protection of software. Under Uniform Trade Secret Act (“UTSA”), a trade secret, which includes compilation, method, or process, gains protection from people who might use it for economical gains. The trade secret, which in this case is software, should be confidential thereby giving it better protection from UTSA than copyright laws do. The other regulations fall under Copyrights law that seeks to protect “works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, ” (Zwass, 2003). The copyright law protects the statement and not the software idea. This regulates people from copying source code without seeking permission. These laws have clear actions against violators, which include both fines and imprisonment. The adoption of the regulations is supposed to be global but differs from one country to another.


Capurro, R. (2000). Ethical challenges of the information society in the 21st century. International Information & Library Review, 32(4), 257-276.

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Feather, J. & Sturges, P. (2003). Open source. In International encyclopedia of information and library science. London: Routledge.

Koehler, W. and Pemberton, J. (2000). A search for core values: towards a model code of ethics for information professionals. Journal of Information Ethics, 9(1), 26-54.

Lester, J. and Koehler, W. (2003). Fundamentals of information studies: understanding information and its environment. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman.

Zwass, V. (2003). Ethical issues in information systems. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker.

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