It is, thus, in this age of office automation and the electronic exchange of information, that company policies are geared, among other things, towards abidance by copyright laws, intellectual property rights and data ownership and privacy laws.
Copyright and intellectual property laws are, whether on the global or the national levels, uncompromisingly strict. As may be inferred from Canis' (2003) discussion, this body of law identifies intellectual property, inclusive amongst which are non tangible objects such as product designs, as goods which are owned by their inventor(s)/designer. As with all goods, they are protected against theft and subsequent unlicensed exploitation.
Software proprietary laws directly stem from copyright and intellectual property laws. As Moniot (2003) explains, the intent of this body of law is the protection of software against unauthorized use, on the one hand, and the establishment of regulations prohibiting software piracy, implying unlicensed use and copying for the purpose of distribution, on the other. It is, in other words, a body of law which determines the protection of the software owner's right to the commercial exploitation of his/her property.
Consequent to the proliferation of information through electronic media of communication, both copyright and software licensing laws are constantly violated. The software industry has been, since the mid 1990s to the present, confronting billions of dollars worth of lost sales as a direct outcome of software piracy (Paradise, 1999; Wheelan, 2003). The Internet has not only facilitated access to pirated working copies of protected, copyrighted and licensed software but, has given people the world over the opportunity to download software which could have otherwise cost hundreds possibly thousands, of dollars, the chance to access and install at the touch of a button (Paradise, 1999; Wheelan, 2003). In acknowledgement of the economic/financial consequences of the aforementioned to the industry, stringent software copyright and anti-piracy laws have been implemented on both national and international levels, in an effort to offset and stem this development.
Most companies, including the one at which I am employed, have very clear guidelines and policies regarding software piracy and copyright laws. In reference to my place of employment, company policies strictly prohibit employees from downloading peer to peer programs on company computers, or using the corporation's internet connection to download such programs and subsequently use them for the violation of copyright and anti-software piracy laws. Employees who are caught violating this prohibition may face disciplinary action ranging from a warning to dismissal.
Both the company's IT and legal departments' directors explained that the above stated corporate policy is not simply an expression of compliance with existent national and international laws but, more so, was instituted for the protection of the company itself. As I had been informed, six years ago, prior to the implementation of the said policy, a significant percentage of employees had peer to peer programs installed on their company computers and, even as they were working, had these programs running in the background, downloading an entire range of copyrighted material, from programs to movies. The cost to the company was extremely high because many of the downloaded files were