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High tech morality; Ethics in a digital age

You are parking at the mall. You see a woman leave her handbag on the roof of her minivan as she copes with helping several children out of the van. She carries one in her arms and two more hold on to her as she heads for the mall’s entrance. The handbag all but forgotten sits alone atop the minivan. Do you return it to the woman or snatch it down and steal everything you can from it?

For the most part, I believe people are moral and honest and yet I was surprised recently to see a stark reminder that some people leave their conscience on the offline side of the digital divide. 
 
There is an individual my brother knows; we’ll call him Bob (not his name). Bob is an all-around great guy, devoted to his family, big fan of his local sport teams and Bob runs a business. It came to my attention recently that Bob was using “pirated” software at his business. This was not my opinion, this is a fact. This business is using software that depends on hacker programs to generate fake key codes for the software to think it has been purchased. 
 
Bob knows he’s breaking federal law by using the pirated software but it is apparently a risk he is willing to take. I’ve met Bob a few times and I have to ask myself why would a man who appears to be a true pillar of his community be willing to take such a risk? Is it because he believes it is a victimless crime? Let me assure you it is not.
According to Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/issues/essays/2002/03-05piracy.mspx) “Software theft robs the U.S. economy of more than 118,000 jobs, $5.6 billion in wages and more than $1.5 billion in tax revenue each year.”
In a PDF published by the business software alliance (http://portal.bsa.org/faces/pdf/FOIP-pr.pdf) Andrea Sharrin the Deputy Chief, Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section, Criminal Division, for the U.S. Department of Justice put it like this:
“Software piracy is a crime that causes real and significant consequences. It hurts the economic security of this country, takes away Americanjobs, and undermines confidence in our economy. There are real victims of software pirates, and not just software companies, but also consumers. By either knowingly or unknowingly downloading or using illegal software, individuals put their computers at risk of infection. Perhaps moreimportantly, they also risk exposing sensitive filesand personal information, like tax records, to criminals. Piracy is a serious issue that congressis very aware of and concerned with, and theyhave created laws to criminalize this behavior.”
My message today is to all the “Bobs” out there. I know times are hard and our fragile economy is as nerve-racking as a drunken game of Jenga. That business you own or run or manage has a place in its community and a reputation you have helped it to earn. That company also helps your employees pay their bills and put food on their table for their families.
If you would not steal the food you help your employees earn for their families. I ask you to not steal the food from another family simply because they do not work for your company.
If you use software in your company make sure every copy of it is properly paid for and licensed. Bring the same integrity you demonstrate in your actual life to your company’s digital life. It’s the right thing to do.
This is Bill Kentner and you’ve just had your Tech Talk.

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