Guide to Ethical and Legal Use of Software


This article explains how software may be used and shared. Software piracy is a crime that is punishable by law. Software users should be familiar with the licenses associated with the software they are using so that they don't run afoul of copyright law. As an educational institution, Dartmouth encourages creativity and scholarly efforts in all fields of endeavor. The right of individuals to gain recognition and reward for their inventions is one that Dartmouth vigorously supports. Copyright law is intended to protect that right so all care should be taken to respect the copyrights of authors and developers by our community.

Did You Know That...

  • Unauthorized copying of software is illegal. This includes distributing the software over the network or Internet – not just burning a copy of the CD or DVD. Copyright law protects software authors and publishers, just as patent law protects inventors.
  • Misuse of software constitutes a violation of the Dartmouth College Information Technology Policy and may subject a student or employee to disciplinary action.
  • Unauthorized copying of software by individuals can harm the entire academic community. If unauthorized copying proliferates at Dartmouth, the institution may incur a legal liability. Dartmouth may find it more difficult to negotiate agreements that would make software more widely and less expensively available to members of the academic community.
  • Unauthorized copying and use of software can deprive publishers and developers of a fair return for their work, increase prices, reduce the level of future support and enhancement, and inhibit the development of new software products.
  • Respect for the intellectual work and property of others is essential to the mission of colleges and universities. As members of the academic community, we value the free exchange of ideas. Just as we do not tolerate plagiarism, we do not condone the unauthorized copying of software, including programs, databases, and code.

Legal Alternatives to Consider

Dartmouth provides legal alternatives to unauthorized copying of software. There is no reason to engage in illegal copying of software because of its expense or availability. Information, Technology & Consulting provides software that can be legally distributed and is readily available on the web. Research Computing in particular can help you gain access to the software you need to perform your academic work. Some options are:

  • Site-licensed or Bulk-purchased Software: Working with vendors, Dartmouth has negotiated agreements that make some copyrighted software available either to use or to purchase at favorable prices. For more information about these products, contact The Computer Store in 001 McNutt Hall (603-646-3249). Software available through bulk purchases or institutional site licenses is subject to restrictions, and you may not make or distribute copies of it without express authorization. In many instances, if you leave Dartmouth (are no longer an active student, faculty, or staff member), you are required to remove this software from your computer.
  • Network-licensed Software: The KeyServer, a system that offers metered control of commercial Macintosh and Windows software over the campus computer network, allows the Dartmouth community to gain access to and copy licensed programs freely. To use these licensed products, your computer must be connected to the Dartmouth network, and you must have the KeyServer software installed properly on your computer. KeyAccess and over 100 network-licensed products are available from the ITC web site.
  • Shareware: Shareware, or 'user-supported' software, is copyrighted software for which the developer has granted you a usage license. Permission is stated explicitly in the program’s documentation or is displayed explicitly on the computer screen. The developer of shareware asks you to pay for the software if you like it and plan to continue to use it. By registering as requested, you may receive additional documentation and program updates.
  • Freeware: Freeware is copyrighted software that you may copy and distribute to others, although not for profit. You may also modify the software (check the license agreement before modifying), although your redistribution of the modified software must also be as freeware.
  • GNU General Public License: Another freeware license which guarantees the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software in question. More information on GNU licenses can be found on the Free Software Foundation website.
  • Public Domain Software: Sometimes authors dedicate their software to the public domain, which means that the software is not subject to any copyright restrictions. The developer will provide explicit notification that the software has been placed in the public domain. The software then may be copied and shared freely.
  • Demonstration Software: To help you decide which product(s) to purchase, demonstration copies of popular software for personal computers are available at The Computer Store in 001 McNutt Hall.

Remember, restrictions on the use of software are far from uniform. It is your responsibility to check each piece of software and the accompanying documentation and license agreement carefully. In general, you do not have the right to receive and use unauthorized copies of software or to make unauthorized copies of software for others to use.

This policy – intended for adaptation and use by individual colleges and universities – was developed by the EDUCOM Software Initiative and the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). The text is taken, with minor changes, from a brochure published jointly by EDUCOM and ITAA (copyright 1992). It is reproduced with permission.

Questions You May Have

What Do I Need to Know About Software and the U.S. Copyright Act?

The U.S. Copyright Act recognizes that all intellectual works (programs, data, pictures, books, music, movies, television shows, drawings, etc.) are automatically covered by copyright unless explicitly noted to the contrary. The owner of the copyright holds exclusive rights to the reproduction and distribution of the work. It is illegal to duplicate or distribute software or its documentation without the permission of the copyright owner. If you have purchased a program, however, you may make one copy of it for your own use only in case the original fails to work.

May I Lend Software That I Have Purchased Myself?

Read the usage license agreement carefully before you use software. Some licenses restrict use to a specific computer. Copyright law does not permit you to use your software on two or more computers at the same time unless the license specifically allows it. It may be legal to lend your software to a friend temporarily as long as you do not keep a copy for yourself, which includes not keeping a copy of the software installed on your computer. Read the license that accompanies the software to see if this is allowed.

If Software Is Not Copy-protected, Do I Have the Right to Copy It?

Lack of copy-protection is not the same as absence of copyright. Lack of protection does not constitute permission to copy software to share or to sell. Unprotected software enables you to safeguard your investment by making a backup copy. In offering unprotected software to you, the developer or publisher has placed a significant amount of trust in your integrity.

Isn't It Legally ‘Fair Use’ to Copy Software If the Purpose In Sharing It Is Purely Educational?

No. It is illegal for anyone to copy software for distribution to anyone else if they do not have permission from the software’s author or publisher.

May I Copy Software From Facilities on Campus So That I Can Use the Software More Conveniently In My Own Room Or Office?

Software acquired by Dartmouth is usually licensed. The licenses restrict how and where the software can be used legally. This applies to software installed on the public computers and on the computers in the instructional centers, software distributed on disks or CDs by departments, and software available on central computers, file servers, websites, and networks. Some institutional licenses permit copying for certain purposes. If you are unsure about the use of a particular product, please contact the IT Service Desk (Help Desk) at 603-646-2999 and select from the options provided, send email to, or call your department's IT support office.

I Have Two Computers - A Laptop and A Desktop. Can I Purchase One Copy of Software and Install It on Both Computers?

It differs by software vendor, so read the usage license agreement carefully to see if installing it on both computers is legal. Some licenses restrict usage to a specific computer; others allow you to have one licensed copy on both computers.

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Article ID: 63657
Tue 10/9/18 11:33 AM
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