Ethics Scenario

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Whose Property?
I
Derek Evans used to work for a small computer firm that specializes in developing software for management tasks. Derek was a primary contributor in designing an innovative software system for customer services. This software system is essentially the "lifeblood" of the firm. The small computer firm never asked Derek to sign an agreement that software designed during his employment there becomes the property of the company. However, his new employer did. Derek is now working for a much larger computer firm. Derek's job is in the customer service area, and he spends most of his time on the telephone talking with customers having systems problems. This requires him to cross reference large amounts of information. It now occurs to him that by making a few minor alterations in the innovative software system he helped design at the small computer firm the task of cross referencing can be greatly simplified. On Friday Derek decides he will come in early Monday morning to make the adaptation. However, on Saturday evening he attends a party with two of his old friends, you and Horace Jones. Since it has been some time since you have seen each other, you spend some time discussing what you have been doing recently. Derek mentions his plan to adapt the software system on Monday. Horace asks, "Isn't that unethical? That system is really the property of your previous employer." "But," Derek replies, "I'm just trying to make my work more efficient. I'm not selling the system to anyone, or anything like that. It's just for my use -- and, after all, I did help design it. Besides, it's not exactly the same system -- I've made a few changes." What follows is a discussion among the three of you. What is your contribution? II

Derek installs the software Monday morning. Soon everyone is impressed with his efficiency. Others are asking about the "secret" of his success. Derek begins to realize that the software system might well have company-wide adaptability....
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