Software Piracy Perspectives—Option 2

Topic area

Intellectual Property

Target audience

Undergraduate students in any area

Activity type

Questionnaire, reading assignment, class discussion, video, team project

Time required

In class time: 50 to 75 minutes;

Out of class time: 2 to 3 hours



Web Sites Resource List

Additional materials

"Don’t Copy That Floppy"--video

Background needed to complete the assignment

No prior expertise is required


Contained on resource list

Last modified

January 2000


The objectives of this activity are to provide a means for students to examine their attitudes (perceptions) and behavior (actions) as they relate to software piracy and to create materials that could be used by a high school computer science teacher. A questionnaire will be used to provide pre-discussion thoughts about software acquisition. Students will review materials on legal issues regarding software. The materials are self-contained and can be used in an ethics course (computer science, engineering, business, etc.) or as a self-contained module in any other course.

Goals for the activity:

The activity is designed to accomplish the following:

  1. Students will examine their own attitudes and behaviors related to software piracy.
  2. Students will become acquainted with the laws as they relate to software.
  3. Students will develop materials that can be used by a high school computer science teacher.

Knowledge/skills/attitudes to be developed (behavioral objectives):

Through this activity, students will become familiar with the laws related to software and intellectual property rights. They will evaluate their own attitudes and behaviors. Students will work to develop appropriate materials for a high school computer science teacher to use in teaching about software piracy.



Prior to any class discussion or reading assignment, each student will be provided two copies of the questionnaire and asked to complete them. One copy should be returned to the instructor at the next class meeting. The instructor should record that the student returned the form; however, no identifying information about the student should be made. The instructor will tally responses prior to the class discussion. (Note: some institutions may require approval by a "human subjects research" committee prior to administration of any questionnaire.)

Students should be directed to examine materials about copyright laws and software piracy which are provided at least one class period prior to the discussion.

During the class period designated for this discussion, the instructor will lead discussion on the legal aspects of software. The following topics should be included:

--1976 Copyright Law

--1980 amendment to Copyright Law to include software protection

--1990 Software Rental Act that forbids commercial renting of software

--Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) efforts to document software piracy costs, to offer a telephone hotline (1-888-NO PIRACY), and to assist in penalizing businesses (including universities) who violate the laws.

--Proactive efforts by businesses to educate their employees regarding software usage (view TI web site)

The entire class will view the video "Don’t Copy That Floppy". The class is then directed to develop materials or guidelines for a high school computer science teacher to use to teach this same topic to his or her class. If the class is small, the entire class will complete the project as a single team. If the class is large enough, then teams can be assigned to work together on the project. It might be beneficial to have a sample lesson plan outline (obtained from an Education Department) available for the teams.

Assessing outcomes:

The student will receive a score for completing the questionnaire. This would be a participatory (or attendance) score. The materials developed as a project by the team(s) should be submitted for a more subjective evaluation and score.

Additional remarks:


Author contact information:

Cindy Meyer Hanchey

Oklahoma Baptist University

Shawnee, OK 74804