Ethical consideration in open source software


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Ethical consideration in open source software

  1. 1. <ul><li>Names- Anju Amatya
  2. 2. ACSG-575
  3. 3. Essay #2 – Ethical Considerations in Open-Source Software Usage
  4. 4. Introduction
  5. 5. Open source refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers wants. Most Open Source software is distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), additionally requires that if a modified version of the software is distributed, the source code for such modified version must be made freely available. In essence, creators of Open Source software hold the copyright for their work, but grant a license (the GPL) to anyone who wants to use it. </li></ul>It is important to understand that open source comes with license obligations. Most software engineers download the free open source and use it within their own commercial software without attending to those obligations. The important thing is to understand these obligations and to be clear about which license obligations are acceptable to you and which license obligations are not. The most important use of open source software is on university level student where they can not only learn about software but with the source code they can also have in-depth knowledge about the software and can learn much about it. <br />Comparing open source and proprietary software both have some pros and cons. Open source software is very low priced or even free. With free software, such as Linux, the source is freely available for download. People are encouraged to look at it and try to find bugs. And thousands of people do look at the code. The end result is that there are far more people proofreading and fixing code, and the program has fewer bugs and is more stable. The risk in open source software is potential liability for intellectual property infringement. While proprietary software is one that is owned by an individual or a company. There are almost always major restrictions on its use, and its source code is almost always kept secret and one of the most common prohibitions for such programs are making unauthorized copies, using it on more than a certain number of computers. With proprietary software only the developer of the program have access to its source code which makes it impossible for others to find problems in the code before they cause damage. <br />In the article the defenders of free software, Armijn Hemel who lives in Netherlands is against the use of free software. From the past 5 year he has been working as a volunteer watchman for free, open-source software like Linux operating system and is monitoring on the companies who uses open source instead of building software for their products from scratch and he found some companies who violated the law associated with that free software like dell got a cease and desist letter for shipping its new Streak tablet without providing the open source software code and later they published the code on their website but other companies may be because of their ignorance or negligence have to pay large amount of money to the one whom that software belongs. There are some high profile companies like Cisco System, Best Buy, and Verizon Communication who have been sued by Software Freedom Law Center. There is some rule associated with open source software and some company fears that programmer of that software may charge them some large amount for violating their law. <br />Stakeholders<br /><ul><li>Stakeholder is the one who is affected or can be affected by the organizations actions and the effect could be strong, medium or low.
  6. 6. Some of the stakeholders on this issue are
  7. 7. Developer who creates open source
  8. 8. Programmer who creates it has their ideas, thoughts, hard work, time all are in stake.
  9. 9. Companies that uses Open Source Software
  10. 10. Sometimes companies may fail to move according open source software law due to which they may have to face charge, so their reputation are on stake.
  11. 11. Companies that develop proprietary software have their business in risk.
  12. 12. Programmer who uses that open source
  13. 13. Sometimes developer they write their own code and publish it along with open source without stating it so due to which their own creation which they don’t want to make it open source get published unknowingly.
  14. 14. General user
  15. 15. Their overall safety might be on stake because while using open source no one takes responsibility if anything goes wrong.
  16. 16. Utilitarian Analysis
  17. 17. Utility is a measure of relative satisfaction so utilitarian is the one who accept the principle of utility and is concern for maximizing the overall happiness. If the good consequence outweighs the bad consequences than the action is morally proper to use otherwise that action is morally improper. If we do the cost and benefit analysis than the cost of producing software from scratch goes hand in hand with the steadily increasing size and complexity of the software so reusing the standard components keep the costs down. </li></ul>With utilitarian point of view, two possible sides are seen.<br />On one side lot of things can go wrong with proprietary software. If the original manufacturer of the software program no longer exists, and the source to the program is not available, it is generally impossible to fix the problem. If this program is essential to someone's business and no longer works, the company has a big problem. Free software presents a better alternative. When you find a bug in your software, you can fix it yourself instead of depending on the original vendor to fix it. Or, somebody else can be hired to fix the problem. This instantly takes a difficult, possibly insurmountable problem with software, down to something that could be fixed in a matter of hours - a clear benefit of free software.<br />On the other side, support is an important issue which makes the difference between commercial and Open Source software. By purchasing proprietary software from a reputable vendor, a company will likely feature a formal vendor support organization backing the purchase. With Open Source software, on the other hand, code maintenance falls upon either the community of developers, if an organization wishes to rely on it, or on the company itself. Another important aspect of open source software is that new knowledge is generated; the users of a given free program can add their own features to it. If we're not satisfied with how something works, we can improve it. This capability is especially useful if the software vendor does not exist any longer or is unwilling to implement your desired changes. You get a better product, and the people using it are more productive. <br />Some people have limited budgets and are sometimes forced to avoid using a particular software program simply because they cannot afford it. This is certainly not beneficial. If everyone could afford the software that they want or need, they'd be better off because their desires are fulfilled, and they'd most likely be more productive, since they have software that fits their needs better. An example of this is tax preparation software. Consider the situation of somebody that cannot afford to have an accountant prepare his taxes, and cannot afford to purchase a software program to help him. This person could very well make mistakes on his tax return, which could result in serious fines from the government, making his financial situation even more precarious. Obviously, there is a net loss of utility with this sort of proprietary software. Now consider if he were to use a GPL tax-preparation program. Not only would the program itself likely be of higher quality for reasons already outlined in section, but also he would likely be able to download the program and use it at no cost to himself. His tax return will more likely be correct, and he has a smaller chance of getting a nasty fine from the government.<br /> One tremendous benefit of free software is that every free software program instantly becomes a valuable educational tool. One great way for programmers to learn is to look at good code from others. This is precisely the sort of advantage that free software provides. Programming students can study or even modify the internal workings of the Linux operating system as class projects, for instance. If people are better-educated, we get higher-quality software, which of course leads to increased utility - a definite win. Another benefit here is that students can use, at no cost, a free software operating system. This gives them the same computing environment as they get at their place of learning, with the added benefit that they can reuse the source code to every part of the system they want.<br />Deontological Analysis<br /><ul><li>From Kantian view a moral action is not based upon feelings or pity. Nor it is based on the possibility of reward. Instead, a moral action is one based on a sense of “This is what I ought to do.”
  18. 18. So since Kantian view focuses on fulfilling one’s responsibility or duty, one should be careful while using open source software and make sure the terms and conditions are fulfilled. A developer cannot just copy the codes/techniques and claim it as his own innovation nor can he resell that product under his name. One should also make sure that if he is using even smallest part from some open source and he gives him the credit for that. The one who is using other’s open source software should take care of other’s intellectual property and make sure he goes through all the terms and conditions of the open source software he is using or going to use.
  19. 19. Not just the developer, but the responsibility also lies on the company. Sometimes, the developers in company may miss to follow the terms and conditions. So at that time, the companies should make sure that they have some kind of procedure that takes care of these kinds of issues; because, if developer makes the mistake and the company fails to verify that, they will be the one to face the legal consequence.
  20. 20. Conclusion
  21. 21. So, in open source software ethical consideration, utilitarian and deontological analysis, both, are pointing towards same direction. In this case, both analyses seem to be in line with each other where deontological analysis focuses on following one’s responsibility of taking care of other’s property and which fulfills the condition made by utilitarian view by make majority of people happy. The developer should make sure he gives credit to the original developer. When a developer uses open source software, he gets bind with the same rules as the original developer and thus, he should make his work publicly available as his source was. And when he does that, more people are benefitted. More people get free software and more people can learn. It is like knowledge sharing and hence supporting utilitarian view too.
  22. 22. To summarize my article with my own open-source code of conduct, I would list it in this way:-
  23. 23. Developer - Developer should protect one’s intellectual property. He should follow the terms carefully. Whenever copying from an open source, he should make sure that he also makes his copy publicly available. He should make sure that he doesn’t claim other’s work as his own and gives proper credit to the main developer.
  24. 24. Organization – Organization should not rely on developers to follow the rules. So, there must be some kind of automated procedure which checks the originality of work. They have to make sure that the codes are not being copied from other open source for the products which they are going to launch as proprietary. The procedure should also check the proper credits being given.
  25. 25. Users – User who modifies the open source code and publishes it must make it free of cost and should provide their source code along with the original open source code.</li></ul>References<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />