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					Western News at The University of Western Ontario


Software Piracy At Universities
Karmen Dowling
August 18, 2005
Canadian students have double standards when it comes to protecting intellectual
property rights. Forty-seven per cent of Canadian university and college students admit
to downloading software without paying for it and 53 per cent say they swap computer
discs among friends, according to a survey that uncovers the prevalence of software
piracy on university campuses nationwide. "There is certainly the belief by many that
if it's on the Net it belongs to everybody and they don't regard it as a serious offense,"
says Debra Dawson, Director of Western's Teaching Support Centre. She was also
involved in overseeing the implementation of Turnitin.com, a service Western has
subscribed to since 2001, designed to help both educators and students eliminate
the growing problem of plagiarism through the Internet. The survey, released by the
Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) and conducted by independent
researcher Uthink, measured the attitudes and behaviors of 3,000 college and university
students across Canada, including 500 students who identified computer science as
their major. When asked their views about someone plagiarizing their own work, 87
per cent of students consider this to be serious or very serious, yet only 40 per cent
consider using pirated software to be a serious issue. This disconnect is stronger
among computer science majors. Eighty-three per cent of computer science students
feel very strongly about someone stealing their own intellectual property, yet nearly
two-thirds (64 per cent) admit to downloading commercial software from the Internet
without paying for it - compared to 46 per cent of students in other fields of study.
"These survey findings suggest to us that while students have a strong will to protect
intellectual property, they make exceptions for software," said Jacquie Famulak,
president of CAAST. "It's alarming to see so many computer science students pirating
software when their future livelihood could be directly hurt by pirating activities. Clearly,
more education is needed to help students understand that their actions can have
serious implications for themselves now and in the future." The CAAST survey also
unveils student attitudes on ethical and legal issues around software piracy and theft:
*Students waver on what constitutes stealing. Almost all (96 per cent) agree that
stealing software from a store is serious or very serious, yet only 40 per cent feel
the same way about downloading, swapping or making illegal copies of commercial
software - despite the fact that these activities are also forms of theft and are illegal.
*While 72 per cent agree that using pirated software is unethical, only 16 per cent
consider it an illegal activity that warrants punishment. *Student views on software
piracy are not a result of ignorance about intellectual property rights. Over 78 per cent
say they have received information about intellectual property rights or copyright laws
from the media. Almost 63 per cent say they have also obtained this information from a
college or university course. "Using pirated software is a decision that comes with risks.
In fact, by using pirated software, students increase the risk of exposing their computer
systems and other data files to spyware, viruses and security holes, not to mention
possible legal consequences," said Famulak. "Students who use school networks to
pirate software may also be compromising their school's computer security and safety
and should be aware that their school may be held liable for the actions of its students.

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That's why education and awareness are key preventative steps that can and should be
taken." In an effort to address the growing challenge of digital piracy at higher education
institutions, CAAST and BSA launched "Define the Line" (www.definetheline.com), an
awareness program designed to educate students about the importance of being good
cyber citizens and respecting the intellectual property of copyrighted works online. The
program encourages students to use only legal software and to understand the impact
of software theft. Dawson says as technology continues to grow, attitudes may alter, "I
think when it gets to the point where online purchases is more common, people will see
it as less and less morally responsible to steal things from the net." Students can learn
more about software piracy, its implications and online consumer safety by also logging
on to the CAAST Web site at: http://www.caast.org

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