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Intellectual Property Rights in Software: A Critical Investigation from an Ethical Perspective
Linköping University, Department of Culture and Communication, Centre for Applied Ethics.
2004 (Swedish)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

The development of software was considered until the beginning of the 1990th as a cathedral like product development in closed companies. This way of development changed in the last decade. Open source software (OSS) development challenged this consideration significantly. OSS is produced in co-operation by skilled people, distributed and used by many moral agents. The result, the software itself, can be studied and modified. Herein is the main incentive for people to develop the software. In such a mode of production the freedom to access knowledge and information (=source code) is a necessity to produce the artifact (software).

Software is a digital entity. The main difference in comparison to natural resources like oil, land, minerals is that it can be used and reproduced without losses. It lacks the capacity of getting naturally scarce. Contemporary intellectual property rights assume implicitly that goods might getting scarce one day. Imbedded in the term intellectual property is also an idea of "fencing" objects. In this thesis I will argue that anartificial"encing"of digital objects might cause unintentional bad consequences for the society. An other quality intellectual property rights are claimed to have is that they serve as an incentive for inventors/authors to produce new inventions and ideas. The practice of OSS development works without such an incentive provided by intellectual property rights.

The moral conflict, which I attempt to unravel in this work deals with the question to what extend the application of intellectual property rights in software is necessary and how restrictive particular property rights in digital objects should be - if there should be any at all. Knowledge as the factor of production is of the same value in knowledge societies as land was for agrarian societies. The difference is in the mode of production and the un-limitless availability of digitalized knowledge. I argue that the"protection"of knowledge, and software is knowledge, has to be carefully revised in so called knowledge societies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Ethics, Intellectual Property Rights, Open Source, Software, Tragedy of the Commons, Tragedy of the Anticommons, Internal Values of Practices
Keyword [sv]
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-2434ISRN: LIU-CTE-AE-EX--04/04--SEOAI: diva2:19766
Available from: 2004-06-21 Created: 2004-06-21

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