The Ethical and Legal Implications of Information Systems

In this chapter, you will learn how the ubiquity of information systems today compels us to act ethically and legally. As you read, consider the sorts of ethical questions that we must ask ourselves now that did not exist before. How does this affect you personally?

Sidebar: Creative Commons

Chapter 2 introduced the topic of open-source software. Open-source software has few or no copyright restrictions. The creators of the software publish their code and make their software available for others to use and distribute for free. This is great for software, but what about other forms of copyrighted works? If an artist or writer wants to make their works available, how can they go about doing so while still protecting the integrity of their work? Creative Commons is the solution to this problem.

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides legal tools for artists and authors. The tools offered make it simple to license artistic or literary work for others to use or distribute in a manner consistent with the author's intentions. Creative Commons licenses are indicated with the symbol . It is important to note that Creative Commons and public domain are not the same. When something is in the public domain, it has absolutely no restrictions on its use or distribution. Works whose copyrights have expired are in the public domain.

By using a Creative Commons license, authors can control the use of their work while still making it widely accessible. By attaching a Creative Commons license to their work, a legally binding license is created. Here are some examples of these licenses:

  • CC-BY. This is the least restrictive license. It lets others distribute and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as they give the author credit for the original work.
  • CC-BY-SA. This license restricts the distribution of the work via the "share-alike" clause. This means that others can freely distribute and build upon the work, but they must give credit to the original author and they must share using the same Creative Commons license.
  • CC-BY-NC. This license is the same as CC-BY but adds the restriction that no one can make money with this work. NC stands for "non-commercial".
  • CC-BY-NC-ND. This license is the same as CC-BY-NC but also adds the ND restriction, which means that no derivative works may be made from the original.

These are a few of the more common licenses that can be created using the tools that Creative Commons makes available. For a full listing of the licenses and to learn much more about Creative Commons, visit their web site.