Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Obama's Transition Web Site Licensed to Creative Commons

The Obama Change.gov web site now permits viewers "to copy, distribute, display, and perform material from the site, as well as to remix it, as long as the work is attributed to its source" as reported in CNET News for December 1, 2008 ("Obama Team Changes Change.gov Copyright Policy"). The article notes that federal government sites are in most cases free of copyright use restrictions, so Change.gov is a bit different in that it requires attribution.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig is quoted in the article saying, in effect, that crediting an information source is good practice. Why do you think he made that comment? Do you agree or disagree with his statement?
  2. Did you know that material produced by the United States government can be freely used without copyright restrictions? In this age of budget deficits and economic woes, do you think it would be a good idea for the federal government to charge use fees on goverment information? Why or why not?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Employee Qualities Desired by IT Management

Computerworld magazine from November 10, 2008 cites ethics and morals as the top traits sought by information technology leaders based on an online survey by the Society for Information Management-SIM ("SIM Survey: Ethics, Morals Top Workplace-Skills Wish Lists of IT Execs"). "Gauging the moral fiber of job applicants" is a key aspect of the Dannon Co. hiring process according to Mike Close, chief technology officer. Jerry Luftman, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. and SIM's vice president of academic affairs noted that "circumventing security systems" and other misdeeds by technology employees has spurred the increased interest in assessing the ethical attitudes of new hires.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it possible to determine a prospective employee's moral compass in a brief interview?
  2. Is it most important that a company's administration exhibits ethical behavior to demonstrate what is expected of all employees?
  3. Should all companies use and enforce a code of ethics so employees know what actions are acceptable and the consequences for not following the code?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ethical Considerations When You Have 2 or More Jobs

The Vancouver (BC) Sun highlights the issue of working for more than one employer in its September 20, 2008 issue ("Career Hazards Are Hiding in the Moonlight"). The problems usually surface when you hold 2 or more different jobs with employers in the same or related line of business. You may inadvertently disclose proprietary information to the other employer or one employer may believe you are doing work "on behalf" of the other company. The best policy is to be honest about your work situation with both employers.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Should employers prevent their workers from taking a second job in a related industry?
  2. Do you think it would be difficult to keep company secrets from being disclosed to another employer in a related industry?
  3. If your second job is in an unrelated field, does your other employer need to know about it?
  4. What are other concerns related to taking a second or third job to make extra money?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Uploading Class Notes for Payment?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison student paper, The Daily Cardinal reports in its September 22, 2008 issue on a free new service, Knetwit.com that accepts uploads of student and faculty class notes from around the world ("New Website to Pay Students for Note-Taking"). Uploading students and faculty receive payment in "Koins" when their notes are downloaded by others. Koins can be turned into cash or used in the online store.

Employees of Knetwit.com say that the site "supplements" a student's class attendance and doesn't encourage absenteeism. Noah Simon of Knetwit.com adds that the site helps to "create another learning environment where students can network."

Discussion Questions:
  1. How do you know if someone else's notes reflect what a professor really said or demonstrated?
  2. Isn't it easier to go to class and take your own notes? Or bring a digital recorder to get everything a professor says (with their permission, of course)?
  3. Is it ethical and/or legal to post notes based on content developed by someone else (your professor)?
  4. Are notes so personalized that someone else cannot benefit from reading another student's writing? Do most students use so many abbreviations and symbols that the notes are useless to another student?
  5. Isn't it more efficient to ask the professor directly for clarification of a topic if you don't understand?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rowling Victory in Copyright Case

Author J.K. Rowling prevailed in her case against a Harry Potter fan who wanted to publish a lexicon that added no original content to large portions of Ms. Rowling's work according to a BBC News story published September 8, 2008 ("Rowling Wins Book Copyright Claim"). Steven Vander Ark compiled his reference book primarily with Rowling's text from the Potter series. Rowling said this ruling champions the right of authors to control their creative material. Rowling herself planned to write a Potter encyclopedia with profits going to charity. Fair use allows for limited reuse of a creator's work providing that there is "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research" added to the original content, based on the U.S Copyright Office's explanation of the practice. After the judge's decision, Rowling made a statement that seemingly supports the right of others to develop works "which offer original insights into the world of Harry Potter." However, she agreed that the lexicon did not include such unique material and that it should be considered "wholesale theft."

Discussion Questions:

  1. If someone can rework pieces of her writing into another type of work, why shouldn't they be allowed to make a fraction of what Rowling earns?
  2. Does "fair use" encourage a free flow of ideas based on another creator's work? Why or why not? NOTE: Review fair use details at the U.S. Copyright Office link above.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Student Athlete Offers Payment for Writing His Paper

The penalty for a University of Buffalo basketball star placing a Facebook ad offering $30-40 for reading and writing about a book assigned in a course is a three-game suspension. The Buffalo (NY) News covers this story in its August 23, 2008 edition and features a quote from the "solicitation of academic fraud" Facebook request by University at Buffalo senior guard Andy Robinson (UB’s Robinson Suspended 3 Games). Another University of Buffalo student found the listing on Facebook and notified the student newspaper. Robinson "violated UB’s policies regarding academic integrity." However, he served the team well last season as the top scoring player.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Was Robinson's punishment sufficient for his academic integrity infraction? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think athletes get preferential treatment if they break campus rules?
  3. If he wasn't the team's top scorer, would he receive a more severe penalty?

Prince's Music in YouTube Video Ruled as Fair Use

The San Francisco Chronicle's August 21, 2008 issue reports that "small and innocuous" use of music clips doesn't warrant a demand by copyright owners to remove a video from the Internet (Woman Can Sue over YouTube Clip De-Posting). U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, CA made this ruling, seen as a major victory for what is considered fair use (see explanation of fair use at the U.S. Copyright Office) of copyrighted material. Federal law from 1998 allows copyright holders to order a "takedown" of unauthorized Internet material without substantiating infringement or filing suit. However, this latest ruling comes after a woman posted a 29-second video of her son dancing to Prince's song, "Let's Go Crazy" and Universal Music Corp. required that YouTube delete it and others using Prince's works.

Discussion Questions:
  1. In your opinion, does the use of a particular piece of music in YouTube videos hurt or help the artist that created that music?
  2. If a YouTube video gives credit to the original performer like Prince, should it be okay to use his music? Why or why not?
  3. If a YouTube video is made "just for fun" and not for commercial purposes, is it okay to use copyrighted music in the video? Why or why not?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Website Encourages Donation of Old Exams

On June 10, Inside Higher Ed reported that representatives of PostYourTest.com, encouraged University of California at San Diego (UCSD) students to donate "used" exams in return for a Starbucks $5 gift card. The website creator aims to make tests available to "level the playing field" according to the article, so everyone and not the privileged few, has access to the information. Professors can add their name to a "ban list" if they prefer not to give universal rights to student donations of their tests. The issues of unauthorized access to testing material and not securing professors' permission to their intellectual property (i.e., test questions) angers faculty members at UCSD. But professors beyond UCSD may feel the same way if the web site creator follows through with his intention to add other schools to his site.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Does a student have the right to give a test to a website so others can use it?
  2. Is it fair to students and professors to post tests online so they can be viewed by anyone?
  3. Should professors rewrite tests every semester so studying old tests online doesn't give an unfair advantage to students who know about the website?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Governor's Daughter Gifted with West Virginia University Degree

In an ongoing story, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Heather Bresch, daughter of West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, received a West Virginia University (WVU) Executive M.B.A. degree even though she did not "register for, pay for, or complete" 22 hours of coursework noted on her transcript. The June 5, 2008 article continues to note that WVU President Mike Garrison formerly worked for Ms. Bresch at a drug company that is also a major donor to the university.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Would you accept an academic degree that you didn't earn? Would you decide to accept it if it meant you would earn more?
  2. Should the WVU president resign if his staff approved the transcript change, even if he was not personally involved?

In the Case of Scott McClellan and Workplace Ethics . . .

U.S. News features a story from June 3, 2008 that discusses George W. Bush's former press secretary Scott McClellan's new book and whether loyalty to a supervisor is more important than demonstrating ethical behavior on the job. An interview with law professor Stephen Goldman, author of Temptations in the Office: Ethical Choices and Legal Obligations, is featured. Goldman mentions that if someone knows about unethical actions at work, they can say nothing, speak up, or quit that job. However, he notes that many people don't have the luxury of jeopardizing their current employment, so they keep quiet.

Interestingly, Goldman points out that the Bush administration didn't dispute McClellan's comments, but accused him of being "disloyal" to the president. The best way to inspire workers to be ethical is to make sure the top brass act with integrity and say that they expect their employees to do the same, he continues. Furthermore, he adds that everyone in the company should take responsibility for their actions and not blame others for lapses in judgment.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Is loyalty to your supervisor more important than speaking up for fairness and honesty?
  2. Would you work for a business that doesn't value honesty and fairness as long as they paid you an outstanding wage?
  3. Did you ever report wrongdoing on the job either anonymously or directly to a supervisor? What was the result?