Social, Legal and Professional Aspects of Computing
Content of the essay
Section 1: An analysis of ethical aspects of the case
Stakeholders and main ethical issue
Total Web Solutions Ltd, MySpace Inc , Public, Internet service providers, Company (and patent) registrar, Social web sites, British Computer Society, Legal Associations, Courts of Law
Ethical analysis of stakeholders
Teleological theories (egoism, utilitarianism, altruism)
Kant’s first and second imperatives
Section 2: Reflective analysis
Lessons learnt from the module
Matters associated with social, ethical, professional and legal aspects, An awareness of risks and inculcating of a safe culture, Reflection, SWOT analysis, academic writing
Using the knowledge for future personal development planning
Good citizenship, High quality social relationships, Moral responsibility, Risk free and safe home environment, healthy life, economic life
Use of the knowledge for future career development
Frequent referencing, Reflection and journal writing, Verbal communication Advanced analysis of ethics, Risk awareness and safety culture, SWOT analysis, Writing up academic essays
This essay consists of two sections. The first section deals with an analysis of ethical aspects of MySpace, Inc v Total Web Solutions Ltd. The first sub-section of the first section commences with brief summary of the case, secondly identifies the primary and secondary stakeholders. Moreover, thereafter the normative analyses of stakeholders’ acts are presented based on teleological, deontological, and Kantian principles. The second section deals with reflective analysis based on the learning of social, legal and professional aspects of computing, which begins to present what the writer has learnt from the course module. Thereafter it presents the ways and means of using knowledge gained in future personal development planning. The third that is the last sub-section of the second section indicates the ways and means of using learnt knowledge for the writer’s career development.
Section 1: An analysis of the ethical aspects of the case
Total Web Solutions Ltd (TWS) established in 1995 and registered its domain name myspace.co.uk in 1997. Six years after the domain name registration MySpace, Inc was founded. In the next year, TWS changed the use of its domain name in order to take the advantage of the popularity of the social networking site. MySpace, Inc. issues a complain under the DRS in 2007.
Prior to the identification, it is important to the overview the definitions of stakeholders. Evan and Freeman (2005, p.80) define stakeholders as any group or individuals who can affect or be affected by the cooperation. Harrison (2005, p.33) considers other organizations in the business environment and further says the stakeholders are the individuals, groups or other organizations. Examples for stakeholders are given by Murry (1997, p.16), Harrison (2005, p.34) and Des Jardins (2009, p.67) which include common things as well as specific things which leads to prepare a new array of examples. Murry (1997, p.16) presents examples for stakeholders in graphical form and which includes shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, partners, natural environment, local community (and very many more) in an organization. Harrison (2005, pp.33-4) provides eleven categories of stakeholders which includes employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, other suppliers of capital, local communities, government, pressure groups, competitors, trade unions and professional institutes. The public is identified as a stakeholder by Des Jardins (2009, p.67), as they are benefitted at the expense of suppliers, customers, and local communities. In a business environment most affected or be affected are known as primary stakeholders where as the rest is commonly known as secondary stakeholders. Since Total Web Solutions (TWS) and MySpace Inc create the scenario and are competitors hence both they are primary stakeholders. The public becomes the customers in this case, therefore they too are stakeholders, and are the most important to become the primary stakeholders. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Company (and patent) Registrar and Social Networks are suppliers as such they provide the services needed for proper functioning, hence they are also stakeholders, whereas the case and the consequences concerned they are not involved, thus they become secondary stakeholders. The issue is the importance of professional associations, accordingly the British Computer Society (BCS) and legal associations, who deals with intellectual properties, but in decision, making their contribution is less becomes secondary stakeholders. The jurisdiction is executed by the courts of law, probably making a new law, is very decisive so that becomes a primary stakeholder. Before the overview of relevance theories for ethical analysis, now it is time to state that the main issue is violation of copyright laws.
The normative ethical analysis of TWS is done selecting the appropriate theories namely teleology and deontology and Kantians. Egoism and utilitarianism are the theories considered under the teleology which is also known as consequentialist (Holland, 2010 and Premasiri, 1998, p.76) hold that choices, acts, and intentions are to be morally assessed solely by the states of affairs they bring about (Johnson, 2001, p.36). Further teleology specifies the states of affairs that are intrinsically good or favourable for the person responsible for the affair (Des Jardins, 2009, p.87). Thereafter teleology in a position to assert that whatever the choices increase the good, that is bring about more of it are morally right to make and execute. Cambridge dictionary (1996, p.444) meaning for egoism is self-interest is more important than other people are. Harrison (2005, p.63) says egoism involves the decision-making entirely on self-interest in optimizing the personal consequences of action. The TWS, a legal personality acts in society in general to maximize their profit. Hence, the ethical evaluation of TWS can consider under egoism. Utilitarian favours the society to gain the maximum amount of good on it (Des Jardins 2009, p.30; Johnson, 2001, p.32 and Premasiri, 1998, p.110). In the modern society TWS provides a very essential service, therefore the acts of TWS can consider using utilitarianism. TWS has introduced number of links from August 2005, to generate revenue for them. That means it has taken the advantage of considering many links as a means but not an end. This is unethical according to Kant’s second formulation (Johnson, 2001, p.44; Dhammananda, 2004, p.70 and Kalansooriya, 2002, p.301). Hence, the act of TWS can examine using Kant’s second categorical imperative too.
The normative ethical analysis of MySpace, Inc is done selecting the appropriate theories namely teleology, deontology, and Kantianism. Egoism, utilitarianism, and altruism are the theories considered under teleology. Kant’s first and the second categorical imperatives are considered under the Kantian principles. The objectives of MySpace, Inc may differ from TWS, but the consequences are the same as TWS. That is the existence as a successful business organization in society. Hence MySpace, Inc too should also be considered under the egoism, as the argument provided for TWS is equally applied here. The fact discussed already under the utilitarianism of TWS also equally applies for the MySpace, Inc since it is also a legal personality in the business environment. Hence, the acts of MySpace, Inc can be analysed using utilitarianism. Dhammananda (2004, p.81) says that altruism is do the good as it is good without considering benefits to the actor, what is possible in the future. MySpace, Inc has adopted legal measures, it is costly, but provides an example for the business people in the IT industry. Hence, there is a possibility of analyzing the acts of MySpace Inc using altruism. De George (2003, p.211) reports exactly similar case that is a court judgment James Strickland, known as “Strick”, registered the domain name “Strick.com” in 1995. In 1997, the Strick Corporation founded, which owns the trademark “Strick”, sued for use of its trademark, but the court ruled that Strickland was not cyber squatting, did not seek to sell its domain name for a profit, and had a legitimate first claim to register that domain. As this considers breaking up courts given decisions that is known as court made laws, it should be considered under deontology. Pierce (nd, in Holt and Newton, 2004, p.67) further explains that in case of problems with domain names and trademarks domain names are generally allocated to the first person to register, although there are special arrangements to trademark owner to have priority. Pierce further states that if somebody has already registered the name that the other party is seeking to register, that party will only be able to appose the registration in limited circumstances. The judgment criterion here is the good faith so that, it is regarding will should consider under Kant’s first categorical imperative (Kalansooriya, 2002, p.301; Bowie, 1999, pp.17-8; Premasiri, 1998, p.102 and et. al.). The domain name myspace.co.uk is already registered and its owner is TWS since 1997. Nevertheless, the company became after further six years (2003) takes legal action as a means to achieve their objective of getting the ownership of domain name registered by TWS. Accordingly, the morality of means and ends described in Kant’s second formula in the early discussion the action of MySpace, Inc can be considered under the Kant’s second formulation too.
The normative ethical analysis of public has done selection with utilitarianism and deontology. Public are the consumers of services provided by both TWS and MySpace, Inc. The consequences of both companies affect the welfare of public not only in quality but also in numbers. Hence, Utilitarianism is very appropriate to analyze the scenario since public are primary stakeholders in the case. Consumers have rights to know how the business organizations are doing in society, as it is right preserved in the summary of rights and remedies of Supply of Goods and Services Act (c3, 1982), deontology is also very relevant for the scenario concerning public.
The normative ethical analysis of ISPs has done selecting altruism, egoism, deontology, and Kant’s second categorical imperative. Premasiri (1998, pp.77-81) says that an act such as natural, done by an animal, done by under age person or a person with developmental problems are immune from the teleological analysis. According to Premasiri (1998) to analyze, using teleology there should be an intention on the awareness of the consequences of the act that is performed. In this case, ISPs have no intention whether it is good or bad, useful or useless, because their duty is to provide service to the domain owners and public (Johnson, 2001, p.192). Hence, how ISPs are ethical could not be examined using teleological theories. However, there is a contradictory view too. Altruism is a teleological theory (Holland, 2010 and Dhammananda, 2004, p.81), which is strictly is not self-interested, but includes in its goal, the interest of only others. ISPs provide a service for others thus, it could be considered in altruism. Harrison (2005, p.68) says any act, no matter how altruistic it might seem, is actually motivated by the same selfish desire of the agent such as desire for reward, avoidance of guilt, personal happiness and so forth. Hence, the acts of ISPs are not only altruistic but also psychological egoistic. Hence, ISPs can be considered under altruism and egoism. In any state (Great Britain or Sri Lanka) ISPs have legal personality and facilitate rapid communication across vast distances, bringing together user requirements. Providing a service is a duty for them. Harrison (2005, p.36) says that legally defined duties, obligations should be considered within a deontological framework, since ISPs have legally defined duties, ISPs should consider under the deontological theories. The works of ISPs can analyses using Kantian principles too, because one could argue that ISPs have pure intention (will) of providing a service than go deep into legal matters concerning ownership. One could argue that they provide the service because it is a common good for the modern society. Hence, ISPs act can be considered using Kant first formulation.
The normative ethical analysis of company (and patent) registrar has done selecting altruism, egoism, deontology, and Kant’s second categorical imperative. The arguments already discussed under the teleology of ISP’s is exactly match with company (and patent) registrar and getting the registration with company (and patent) registrar is a duty forced in the law of the state. Moreover, Kant’s first formulation already discussed under the ISPs is also equally applied for the company (and patent) registrar. Hence, company (and patent) registrar acts can be analyze using altruism, egoism, deontology and Kant’s first categorical imperative.
The normative ethical analysis of Social Networking Sites has done selecting altruism, egoism, utilitarianism, deontology, and Kant’s second categorical imperative. Arguments provided for ISPs acts under the altruism, egoism are equally valid for Social Networking Sites. If we consider overall roll of Social Networking Sites it of course can also be discussed under other theories such as deontology and Kantianism but it is beyond the scenario.
Altruism, egoism, utilitarianism, and Kant’s first formulation have selected to do the normative ethical analysis of British Computer Society and legal associations. Professional associations work for the benefit of society (Harris, Pritchard, and Rabins, 2003, p.301) which we also accept without arguments. Hence, the acts of professional associations are altruistic their action can consider under altruism. Harrison (2005, p.68) explains a sort of egoism as ‘psychological egoism’, according to Harrison, which is motivation by a concern for long-term best interest. The professional associations are established and they work for long-term interest for the group of people in the same profession. Therefore professional associations belongs to egoism probably one could name it as group egoism. Professional associations provided good service to the society maintain high standard of the profession and they are benefited indirectly. Hence, professional associations can consider under the utilitarianism. Murray (1997, p.151) says that professional associations generally seek to establish minimum standard of conduct for their members, with varying degree of regulation and policing. That is a will of promoting the professional standard. Therefore, because of its will the act of professional associations can consider using Kant’s first formulation. In conclusion, British Computer Society and legal associations can consider under altruism, egoism, utilitarianism, and Kant’s first formulation.
Altruism, egoism, deontology, and both Kant’s first and second categorical imperatives are selected to the normative ethical analysis of Courts of Law. The courts of law functions in society purely for the benefit of society. Hence, its action can consider under altruism. The courts of law enforce the law in society, which is a duty according to deontologist as discussed before hence there action can consider under deontology. Kant insisted on purity of moral goodwill, that is one should not do things because of the outcome but because the action itself is right and further, moral action is not a matter of doing things, which also comply, to moral duties but a matter of doing the right things out of a sense of moral obligation (Pratley, 1997, p.170). The best motive is the will to one’s duty. Hence, the courts of law functions can analyze using Kant’s first formulation. The functions of courts of law treat each person not merely as means, but also as an end in itself. Thus, the functions of courts of law can analyze using Kant’s second formulation too. In conclusion, altruism, egoism, deontology, and Kant’s first and second and categorical imperatives can use to analyze the behaviour of courts of law.
The possible theories for ethical analysis of nine stakeholders, in which four are primary and five are secondary have already discussed under egoism, utilitarianism, altruism, deontology, and both Kant’s formulations. These theories of course give contradictory views. Apart from all these theories, Buddhist Axiology provides very good approach to ethical analysis. They are presented in various texts (sutras) such as five precepts, eight-fold-path of life, singalovada sutra in which explains the duty, responsibility, and the role relationships between members in the society, such as teachers and students, parents and children, employers and employee, husband and wife, and so forth. If we consider the fourth precept of five precepts, it is abstaining from not taking what is not given (steeling). The fourth precept further explains five further requirements to judge the action, namely should know the owner is someone else, the intention to take it, planning a strategy, implementing a strategy and finally gaining the same. Up to the point in this scenario MySpace, Inc violated three-fifth of the fourth precept trying to take what is not given may it be materialistic or intellectual, what ever the possibility from legal grounds. Hence, the action of MySpace, Inc can explain in terms of buddhist axiology perfectly.
Bowie, N. E. (1999) Business ethics – a Kantian perspectives, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
Cambridge University, (1996) Cambridge international dictionary of English. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.
Dhammananda, H. (2004) Buddhist and kantian moral philosophy. Colombo: S Godage and Brothers.
De George, R. T. (2003) The ethics of information technology and business, UK: Blackwell Publishing.
Des Jardins, J. (2009) An introduction to business ethics. 2nd ed., New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Evan, W. and Freeman, R. E. (2005) A Stakeholder Theory of the Modern Corporation: Kantian Capitalism in Des Jardins, J. R. and McCall, J. (eds.) Contemporary issues in business ethics. Belmount, CA: Wadsworth Publishing. p.80.
Harrison, M. R. (2005) An introduction to business and management ethics, New York: Palgrave Machillan.
Harris, C. E., Pritchard, M. S. and Rabins, M. J. (2003) Engineering ethics. 2nd ed., USA: Wadasworth Thomson Learning, Inc.
Johnson, D. G. (2001) Computer ethics. 3rd ed., Singapore: Pearson Education Pte.Ltd.
Kalansooriya, A. D. P. (2002) Modern western philosophy. Peradeniya: University of Peradeniya.
Murray, D. (1997) Ethics in organizations, London: Kogan Page Limited.
Pierce, J. (nd) Intellectual Property Law for Computer Users in Holt, J. and Newton, J. (eds.) A manager’s guide to IT law. Wiltshire: The British Computer Society. pp.61-75.
Premasiri, P. D. (1998) Ethics. Colombo: S Godage and Brothers.
Pratley, P. (1997) The essence of business ethics. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India Private Limited.
Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. (c.3), London: HMSO.
Saddhatissa, H. (1970) Buddhist ethics: essence of Buddhism. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd.
Santina, P. D. (1984) Fundamentals of buddhism. Singapore: The Cooperate Body of Buddha, Educational Foundation.
Hungman, R., and Smith, D. (1995) Ethical issues in social work. London: Rotledge.