Re: On illegal software in an academic assignment ...

Subject: Re: On illegal software in an academic assignment ...
From: Owen Green (
Date: Sun Nov 13 2005 - 10:03:31 EST

Kevin Austin wrote:
> Very difficult and complex issue.


> At 9:44 AM +0000 11/13/05, Owen Green wrote:
>> As for plagarism, I don't see how you get there at all. Accepting
>> 'theft' for the moment; if I write an essay with a stolen ballpoint on
>> stolen paper, is that now plagrism?
> That may depend upon the intellectual property content of the pen and
> paper.

The same order of magnitude of innovation has, I would think, been
invested in its development up to this point; much of it may be far
enough in the past to have ceased to be 'property'

> As I recall, one never "owns" the software, one purchases a
> licence for use.

Which is something software companies decided, along with the sometimes
nutty terms of such licenses. Most software users ('consumers', yechh)
aren't, it seems, aware of this fact, which is possibly why vendors
haven't been called on it.

> Possibly it would need to be in the documentation that comes with the work.

Sorry, what would need to be? Is the work in this case the student's
work or the unethically obtained work?

> At the doctoral level, if I used your contribution without your
> permission, would the doctoral committee accept the work? Ask a local
> thesis advisor I guess.

I don't know - but I still don't thik plagarism would fit an objection
to doing so. Where, in the case of software, do the boundaries lie? Is
it different to use a library or a compiler in development than it is to
use a cracked audio editor?

> The University asks that work which is not the student's be credited.

Which it may well be, independent of the means by which the credited
work was obtained. "The code for this project was completed in MaX/MSP"
still means the same regardless of how that copy was obtained.

Similarly, if one has a copy of a paper that is a second-gen photocopy,
which breaks most of the copyright terms we're expected to sign here,
and you cite it properly etc, would an institution be justified in
penalising the student for having an illegal copy? Would that have
become plagarism somehow?

> One could imagine the President of a large university being asked the
> question: "It has come to light that students in your audio programs are
> using illegal software. Does your university support or condone such
> violations of applicable copyright laws?"

And one could equally imagine a very vague and political reply :)


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