Free, source-code-available, or proprietary: an ethically charged, context-sensitive choice

Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 39 (1):15-26 (2009)

Abstract

We demonstrate that different categories of software raise different ethical concerns with respect to whether software ought to be Free Software or Proprietary Software. We outline the ethical tension between Free Software and Proprietary Software that stems from the two kinds of licenses. For some categories of software we develop support for normative statements regarding the software development landscape. We claim that as society's use of software changes, the ethical analysis for that category of software must necessarily be repeated. Finally, we make a utilitarian argument that the software development environment should encourage both Free Software and Proprietary Software to flourish.

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Keith Miller
University of Ottawa

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