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Educational Software Issues

According to Software Publishers Association, $157 to $209 million in K-12 software revenue were lost from 1993 through 1994 because of illegal copying in schools. These lost revenues adversely affect schools because they compromise the ability of software firms, especially small or young companies, to create new products and offer K-12 customers upgrades and support services.

The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics,

  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work.
  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's computer files.
  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.
  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.
  6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.
  7. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.
  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output.
  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.
  10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that insure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.


Federal law regulates the distribution and use of commercial software under copyright and intellectual property acts. The law protects the rights and livelihood of software producers. Without a strong and competitive market, quality software at a reasonable price is not possible. As a model for your students, you can teach them proper software use by your example and by discussing the law.

Fair Use

The Copyright Act sets forth four factors that courts are to consider in determining whether copying of someone else's work is permitted by the doctrine of fair use.

  1. Purpose and Character
    The purpose and character of the copying, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes--i.e., copying for nonprofit educational uses will more likely qualify as fair use.
  2. Nature of Work
    The nature of the work being copied--i.e., copying from works that are primarily factual in nature is tolerated more than copying from more creative works.
  3. Amount and Quantity Copied
    The amount and substantiality of the portion that is copied in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole--i.e., the more that is copied, or the more significant the portion that is copied (regardless of the quantity) the less likely that fair use will apply.
  4. Effect on Market
    The effect of the copying upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work--i.e., if the copying has an adverse impact on the market for the original work, it will not constitute fair use.

Besides fair use, schools also benefit from some highly specific exemptions from copyright liability. For example Section 110 of the Copyright Act provides several specific limitations on the exclusive rights copyright owners enjoy in their works. These limitations permit schools and educational institutions to display and perform copyrighted works under very specific circumstances.

In face-to-face teaching activities, Section 110(1) permits instructors or pupils at nonprofit educational institutions to perform or display copyrighted works so long as the work is performed or displayed in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction. Even if these requirements are met, Section 110(1) still prohibits educational institutions from performing motion pictures and other audiovisual works in face-to-face teaching if the person responsible for performing the work knows or has reason to believe the copy was not lawfully made.

The educational exemption for using copyrighted works transmitted by any device or process is much more limited. Section 110(2) permits nonprofit educational institutions and governmental bodies to perform non-dramatic literary works or musical works, or to display any copyrighted work, by or in the course of a transmission, but only if the performance or display is:
(1) a regular part of the systematic instructional activities;
(2) directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content of the transmission; and
(3) the transmission is made primarily for a copyrighted work to be performed or displayed.

Web resources

bulletSoftware Publishers' Association Education Anti-Piracy;
bulletSocial, Legal, and Ethical Issues in Educational Technology;
bulletFair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia;
bulletCiting Electronic Resources;

Sourses for Educational Software

Education Sites:

bulletShareware Developers;

General Sites:;;
bulletDownload Planet;


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Copyright 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008