Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery, Scholarship of Interdisciplinary Integration


Computer software is integrated into almost every aspect of our professional and personal lives. Much of this software requires payment for use and is legally protected by the copyright system. This paper examines and analyzes the arguments pertaining to the moral use of protected software (digital piracy). The three arguments presented are the “victimless crime” argument, the “noble justification” argument, and the “willing but unable argument.” These three arguments claim that piracy is morally justified in certain cases, and claim that software providers are not harmed in such situations. The three arguments are tested against counter-arguments, and it is discovered that each debate comes to a stalemate at a single question: is an action immoral because it is illegal? The paper also examines this question in relation to act-Utilitarian and rule-utilitarian ideology. The key research of Gary Santillanes and Ryan Marshall Felder is used to come to the conclusion that piracy is morally acceptable only in situations where there is sufficient need and no alternative. Rule-Utilitarian thought is found as insufficient to handle situations where such piracy is vindicated. The victimless crime argument is dismissed as failing to meet the two conditions, but the noble justification and willing but unable arguments are found as morally justified in certain situations.


Senior seminar paper