Computer Software Piracy Troubles Universities

Published in Ewha Voice. May, 2001

As the government made its biannual rounds last month inspecting the illegal copying and use of computer software, many companies as well as institutions in the public sectors hastened to delete illegal programs and files. Some venture companies, afraid of harsh consequences, even temporarily closed their doors, and alarms rung in both public and private schools.

“We were told to erase several programs on our lab computers,” says a Computer Science major at Seoul National University. Many students and officials at major universities in Seoul to small technical colleges, confirm that they had illegal software on their computers. Of course, all were erased before the government inspections.

Kim Yul-hee (Physics, 3) complains, “How can schools set such bad examples? We are taught not to plagiarize in our papers and yet they are stealing on a larger scale.” In the case of Ewha, programs such as Hangul, Namo, and the virus vaccine program V3 are legally purchased and can be used for any computer in any part of the school. However, many computers are still unequipped with foreign programs such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. “When I do my homework, it is sometimes frustrating because many computers don’t have certain programs,” says Lee Su-jin (French, 2).

Luckily, Ewha is fairly supportive technology-wise, therefore, departments that use advanced programs are mostly using legally purchased software. But the problem arises when it is time for homework. Because these programs are extremely expensive, ranging from two hundred thousand won to over one million won, many students toast copies of the software CDs to take home, a case of “softlifting.” “I know it’s wrong, but I’m using four programs now which cost more than one semester’s tuition. If it is for personal educational purposes at home, is it so bad?” questions Ha Yoon-yung (not her real name).

Korea has a software piracy rate of 50%, which is far higher than the world average of 36%. Because the cost of software is enormously high, many companies and social groups demand that basic programs should be more easily accessible since computers are a part of our everyday lives.

But where do schools stand? As computer literacy increases and students start using more advanced programs in general, schools are finding it difficult to draw the line– caught between immense numbers and ethics.

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