Ethics Case Studies Paper on Code of Ethics in Software Development

Code of Ethics in Software Development


Copyright act in various countries grants rights to the initial producer of the product (Adams, 2004). The initial producer of product has exclusive rights to authorize or not to authorize the reproduction of his product. However, the initial owner of the product can transfer the rights of ownership to another person (Adams, 2004). In this context, the new owner can make copies and improve the product performance after the transfer of rights from the initial owner. Nevertheless, some people engage in piracy and plagiarism activities, which are violation of property rights (Adams, 2004). This involves reproduction of a person’s product without legal consent of the initial owner of the product. In this case, the programmer pirated the software by reproducing the product without the owner’s consent.

Ethical Problem

The production of another product that shares similarity with the existing product is unethical. This is because the commercial programmer violated copyright recommendations whereby the programmer should obtain consent of the initial product. The initial producer also bears the patent rights for the production of similar products. Although there was improvement in the performance of the programmer software product, the action of violating the rights of the initial producer makes the reproduction unethical both in business and in software industry.


  1. The company should take legal action against the programmer for violating the property rights
  2. The company can claim full or part of the net profits resulting from the sales of the pirated software product sold by the programmer.
  3. The public should be informed of the property rights to help in preventing occurrence of illegal activities such as piracy, plagiarism, and infringement of contracts.

Probable Outcomes

When the company takes legal action against the programmer, the court can stop the reproduction of the pirated software by the programmer(Mark & Peter, 2011). This is because the programmer violated the property rights, which are recognized in the laws. Moreover, since the company has the exclusive and patent rights of the software, the company can easily win the case of infringement of property rights(Mark & Peter, 2011). Alternatively, the court can grant the initial owner a share of the sales profits of the new product. In this context, the programmer gives a portion of his net profits to the initial producer as an acknowledgement for the production. Miller and Gotterbarn (2009) state that the company can claim surrender of all the net profit accrued from the sale of pirated software by the programmer. Furthermore, educating the public about property rights would help in overcoming illegal activities, which violate property rights.


The legal action in the courts is one of the best methods of fighting violation of property rights. This can help greatly in prosecuting the culprits of property rights such as the programmer. In some cases, the violators of property rights are large organization with strong financial strength. Therefore, the court is the appropriate solution to a situation where the violator of property rights can overpower the initial owner of the product. The surrender of profits will help in compensating the sales losses of the original software resulting from sale of pirated product. Education on property rights will help in informing the public about their rights and overcoming the infringement of property rights. This is because the public can identify violation of property rights and report the case to the appropriate authorities.

Values Upheld and Violated

The software engineers’ professional code of ethics requires software developers to uphold integrity in their work(Baura, 2006). In this case, the software developer should not develop a program that infringes the rights of the user or another software developer. Therefore, the programmer in the case study violated the integrity rule since the new software was an infringement of the copyrights of the first developer. The software engineer should not engage in deception activities by producing illegal products or engaging in financial deception(Rashid & Lucas, 2009). The programmer violated the deception rule by engaging in deception through production of pirated software. The code of ethics also requires software developers to uphold credit of other developers(Montse&Josep, 2013). However, the programmer did not uphold the credit of the software company before reproducing the software. Thus, the programmer violated the appreciation rights of the initial software developer (Montse&Josep, 2013).Conversely, informing the public about the property rights and seeking legal action against violator of property rights upholds the rights of the software developer. This is because the software developer will benefit from the sale of the original software.

Outcomes of Main Points and Likely Impact

When the software company takes legal action against the programmer, the company can benefit from surrender of profits and stopping the reproduction of the new software. The education of the public about property rights will reduce incidences of infringement of property rights. Since the programmer has released the software, and it is successful in the market, legal action is the best method of claiming property rights as compared to educating the public. This is because the software company requires immediate action against the sales of the pirated software in the market.

The Best Solution

The education of the public is the best solution, in the long term, to solve the problems of infringement of property rights(Miller &Gotterbarn, 2009). This is because the public will be aware of infringement of property rights and can identify the infringement. Although the company thought of taking legal action against the programmer, they did not sue the programmer. However, when the public is aware of property rights, the incidences of violation of property rights are likely to be minimal. The company could have identified the violation at an earlier stage and stopped the reproduction before the sale of the product in the market.


The weaknesses of educating the public include ignorance of the public and finances (Miller &Gotterbarn, 2009). Although the company knew the appropriate strategy to sue the programmer, the company ignored the decision. This resulted to continuous losses experienced by the company. Moreover, the public may also ignore since the violation does not affect them (Miller &Gotterbarn, 2009). This also creates loopholes for violation of property rights. The lack of finances to educate the public is also a challenge. Thus, there are few people aware of the property rights.





Adams, D. (2004). New code of ethics.The Age: New York.

Baura, G. D. (2006). Engineering ethics.Sage: New York.

Mark, A. & Peter, H. (2011).Software engineering education (SEEd), ACM SIGSOFT Software   Engineering Notes. 36(1), 6-7.

Miller, K.W, &Gotterbarn, D. (2009). The Public is the Priority: Making Decisions Using the        Software Engineering Code of Ethics, Computer. 42(6), pp 66-73.

Montse, S. &Josep, B. M. (2013). Engineering Ethics beyond Engineers’ Ethics, Science and        Engineering Ethics. 19(1), pp 179-187.

Rashid, W. & Lucas, R. (2009).Software Engineering Ethics in a Digital World, Computer.          42(6), pp 34-41.