Students’ Attitudes Towards Software Piracy – The Gender Factor: A Case of a Public University in an Emerging Country

Ali Acilar and Muzaffer Aydemir


Computer is one of the important technological developments affecting our daily lives. Computers are changing almost everything in our personal and social life: from communication to education, from business to entertainment. Computers and Internet have become an integral part of our society. There is no doubt that these technologies have had considerable impact on our lives. However, the tradeoff between the benefits and dangers of these information technologies for a person or a society is controversial. Computers and Internet have enlightened many people but these technologies have also raised some ethical issues such as piracy, privacy invasion, unauthorized access and use of computer systems. Mason (1986) was summarized ethical issues related to information technology usage by means of an acronym – PAPA (Privacy, Accuracy, Property, and Accessibility). Piracy is one of the major ethical issues that have arisen in the context of information technology usage. Software piracy is globally widespread phenomena and costs software manufacturers billions of dollars annually. The ease of copying software has made the issue of piracy very well-known and widespread around the world.

Technological developments create new opportunities for action and new sets of choices that are ultimately of a moral nature (Mullen and Horner, 2004). As living in the information age, also known commonly as the computer age or information era, we constantly confronted with important technological changes and the need to create new attitudes towards new situations arose from the computer technology (Masrom and Ismail, 2008). As the use of computers and Internet has become widespread, misuses of these technologies have also increased dramatically (Banerjee et al, 1998). The easy of reaching, storing, changing and transmitting information provided by computers and Internet has made unethical behaviors much easier, particularly among students in the academic environments (Abdul Karim, Zamzuri, and Nor, 2009). Internet has provided a new dimension to human computer interactions. There is no doubt that proper use of computers and Internet is beneficial to both, students and academicians in the universities. However students enter universities from different backgrounds with different experiences and many students are unaware of ethical issues of computer usage such as software piracy (Cohen and Cornwell, 1989). According to Calluzzo and Cante (2004) students had misconceptions about what represented ethical and unethical behaviors in the use of software and information technology and systems.

It is possible that if university students are uncertain about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behavior then this uncertainty will be carried forward into their workplaces after graduation (Calluzzo and Cante, 2004; King and Case, 2007). Employee abuse of company information technology resources can result in lawsuit or dismissal. Even though some organization adopted code of ethics for members, not every computer user and information system professional is a member of these organizations, and therefore does not necessarily follow these codes (Harris, 2000). Many companies depend on people who are computer literate and computer users face ethical problems everyday in the work-place. For these reasons university students who are future employees and managers should be aware of ethical computer usage before graduation (Pierce and Henry, 1996; Calluzzo and Cante, 2004).

There are some important studies about computer ethics awareness and attitudes among university students in the developed countries. These studies investigated the effects of various independent variables such as gender, age, study majors, relationships, PC ownership and PC experience to students’ attitudes about software piracy and other issues of computer ethics. However, related studies about computer ethics awareness and attitudes among university students in the developing countries are limited.

Gender is one of the most heavily researched variables in the literature of ethics. There are many studies that have investigated the role of gender in ethical decision making, beliefs, perceptions and attitudes. There is a debate about whether females are more ethical than males. Some studies found that females are more concerned about ethical issues than males. However, some researchers found that gender has no significant effect on ethical judgements. Although research on “gender and ethics” and “gender and information technologies usage” has increased, a few of the studies are available about gender issues in computer ethics especially software piracy. Given these issues, the main purpose of this study is to examine whether gender differences influence student attitudes on software piracy and the following hypothesis is proposed.

H0(1): Female and male students have the same ethical beliefs about software piracy.

The paper will first give an overview about the relevant literature and then test the hypothesis of the study through a survey on a sample of students in a public university in Turkey. Study results will be discussed for the researchers as well as the practitioners and compared with previous studies.


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