The Ethics of Software Ownership

Examining the ethical justifications for property rights over software

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I completed a PhD in philosophy at the University of Queensland in November 2011. My thesis presented a framework describing the rights and duties various stakeholders may have over computer software, and examined the arguments for and against granting users specific rights over the software they use.

I published two papers based on thesis chapters. ‘A Bundle of Software Rights and Duties’ presented the framework of property rights and duties that describes the various ways software may be used by three types of stakeholders: users, developers, and custodians. ‘The Social Distuility of Software Ownership’ is based on the thesis chapter that examines the arguments against software ownership based on the social costs of withholding rights from users.



  1. The Social Disutility of Software Ownership
    David M. Douglas
    Science and Engineering Ethics, Sep 2011
  2. A Bundle of Software Rights and Duties
    David M. Douglas
    Ethics and Information Technology, Sep 2011
  3. The Rights and Duties of Software Users: An Examination of the Ethics of Software Ownership
    David M. Douglas
    Sep 2011