The EDUCOM Code was created in 1987; there are no plans for this code to be updated.
Using Software: A Guide to the Ethical and Legal Use of
Software for Members of the Academic Community
Using Software: A Guide to the Ethical and Legal Use of Software
for Members of the Academic Community issued by EDUCOM and ADAPSO
Software enables us to accomplish many different tasks with
computers. Unfortunately, in order to get their work done quickly and
conveniently, some people justify making and using unauthorized copies
of software. They may not understand the implications of their actions
or the restrictions of the U.S. copyright law.
Here are some relevant facts:
- Unauthorized copying of software is illegal. Copyright law
protects software authors and publishers, just as patent law protects
- Unauthorized copying of software by individuals can harm the
entire academic community. If unauthorized copying proliferates on a
campus, the institution may incur a legal liability. Also, the
institution may find it more difficult to negotiate agreements that
would make software more widely and less expensively available to
members of the academic community.
- Unauthorized copying of software can deprive developers of a
fair return for their work, increase prices, reduce the level of future
support and enhancement, and inhibit the development of new software
Respect for the intellectual work and property of others has
traditionally been essential to the mission of colleges and universities.
As members of the academic community, we value the free exchange of
ideas. Just as we do not tolerate plagiarism, we do not condone the
unauthorized copying of software, including programs, applications,
data bases and code.
Therefore, we offer the following statement of principle about
intellectual property and the legal and ethical use of software. This
"code"--intended for adaptation and use by individual colleges and
universities--was developed by the EDUCOM Software Initiative.
Software and Intellectual Rights
Respect for intellectual labor and creativity is vital to academic
discourse and enterprise. This principle applies to works of all authors
and publishers in all media. It encompasses respect for the right to
acknowledgment, right to privacy, and right to determine the form,
manner, and terms of publication and distribution.
Because electronic information is volatile and easily reproduced,
respect for the work and personal expression of others is especially
critical in computer environments. Violations of authorial integrity,
including plagiarism, invasion of privacy, unauthorized access, and
trade secret and copyright violations, may be grounds for sanctions
against members of the academic community.
Questions You May Have About Using Software
- A. What do I need to know about software and the U.S. Copyright Act?
- Unless it has been placed in the public domain, software is protected
by copyright law. The owner of a copyright holds exclusive right to
the reproduction and distribution of his or her work. Therefore, it is
illegal to duplicate or distribute software or its documentation without
the permission of the copyright owner. If you have purchased your
copy, however, you may make a back-up for your own use in case the
original is destroyed or fails to work.
- B. Can I loan software I have purchased myself?
- If your software came with a clearly visible license agreement, or if
you signed a registration card, read the licence carefully before you use
the software. Some licenses may restrict use to a specific computer.
Copyright law does not permit you to run your software on two or more
computers simultaneously unless the license agreement specifically
allows it. It may, however, be legal to loan your software to a friend
temporarily as long as you do not keep a copy.
- C. If software is not copy-protected, do I have the right to copy it?
- Lack of copy-protection does not constitute permission to copy
software in order to share or sell it. "Non-copy-protected" software
enables you to protect your investment by making a back-up copy. In
offering non-copy-protected software to you, the developer or publisher
has demonstrated significant trust in your integrity.
- D. May I copy software that is available through facilities on my
campus, so that I can use it more conveniently in my own room?
- Software acquired by colleges and universities is usually licensed.
The licenses restrict how and where the software may be legally used
by members of the community. This applies to software installed on
hard disks in microcomputer clusters, software distributed on disks by a
campus lending library, and software available on a campus mainframe
or network. Some institutional licenses permit copying for certain
purposes. Consult your campus authorities if you are unsure about the
use of a particular software product.
- E. Isn't it legally "fair use" to copy software if the purpose in sharing it
is purely educational?
- No. It is illegal for a faculty member or student to copy software for
distribution among the members of a class, without permission of the
author or publisher.
Alternatives to Explore
Software can be expensive. You may think that you cannot afford to
purchase certain programs that you need. But there are legal
alternatives to unauthorized copying.
Site Licensed and Bulk-Purchased Software
Your institution may have negotiated agreements that make software
available either to use or to purchase at special prices. Consult your
campus computing office for information. Software available through
institutional site licenses or bulk purchases is subject to copyright and
license restrictions, and you may not make or distribute copies without
Shareware, or "user-supported" software, is copyrighted software that
the developer encourages you to copy and distribute to others. This
permission is explicitly stated in the documentation or displayed on
the computer screen. The developer of shareware generally asks for a
small donation or registration fee if you like the software and plan to
use it. By registering, you may receive further documentation, updates
and enhancements. You are also supporting future software
Public Domain Software
Sometimes authors dedicate their software to the public domain,
which means that the software is not subject to any copyright
restrictions. It can be copied and shared freely.
Software without copyright notice is often, but not necessarily, in the
public domain. Before you copy or distribute software that is not
explicitly in the public domain, check with your campus computing
A Final Note
Restrictions on the use of software are far from uniform. You should
check carefully each piece of software and the accompanying
documentation yourself. In general, you do not have the right to:
If you have questions not answered by this brochure about the proper use
and distribution of a software product, seek help form your computing
office, from the software developer, or publisher.
- Receive and use unauthorized copies of software, or
- Make unauthorized copies of software for others.
Note: Copyright 1987 EDUCOM AND ADAPSO, with permission in
brochure to use in whole or in part, providing the source is