Free Music?

As most of you are aware, it is possible to download CD quality music from the Internet using programs like Napster, Kazaa, Morpheus or AudioGalaxy.  Examine some of the legal and ethical implications of this occurrence.  If you were a musical artist, how would you feel about the fact that many people download your music instead of buying it?  

Is painting dead?

With the availability a new computer lab in the school, Mr. Ebel decides to have his Art One students use digital-paint software rather than tempera paint when doing their first project, a self portrait. Students' enthusiasm and success with this project leads Mr. Ebel to look for other areas of the curriculum where computer-based media might be used instead of traditional art media.

  1. Imagine that Mr. Ebel decides to replace all traditional studio activities involving color and composition with computer-based work. Is this appropriate?
  2. Will students learn the subject matter as well (perhaps better) using computers? Consider arguments on both sides. What will be gained in having students work with computers more in art class? What might be lost in the change?
  3. Are individual teachers, regardless of background, the appropriate decision makers in cases such as this?

Putting the yearbook on the line

Mr. MacDonald, a high school journalism instructor, was talking at a parent-teacher conference about putting the school yearbook online. The parent asked if he was going to include in this online publication the full names and pictures of all the students. If so, she didn't think it was a good idea. According to this parent, "There are net-stalkers who could find where her child is eight hours a day, and what she looks like."

  1. Should Mr. Mac get the permission of all parents before proceeding with his online project? What if some parents say no to putting their children?s names and pictures online? Should Mr. Mac then forget about doing the project?
  2. Are the ways to diminish parents' fears about the online community?

Playing and Learning Side by Side?

The computer lab at Glen Springs High School just completed installation of a multi-million dollar computer lab with enough computers, server facilities, and disk space for each (of 100 students) to have an e-mail account. The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art machines, a T-1 internet connection for every terminal, and a fully-equipped multi-media production facility. With all of this at hand, 90% of the machines are used by students for playing  games which they have installed and use during their free periods. The administration and teachers know that these machines shouldn't be "wasted" on games, but at the same time don't want to have to spend the energy, money and time enforcing a no-games policy.

  1. Is it appropriate to allow teachers and students to use a school's computers for non-educational activities?
  2. What are some ways that the school can turn this into a "teachable opportunity?"

I tip my hat to you.

This example is not related to technology at all.  Waiters and waitresses  fall into a special category of minimum wage in Michigan--minimum wage for them is only about $2.50/hr.  They make a most of their wage from tips.  Is it ethical to not leave a tip?  is it legal?  Do you leave tips?

Creativity on the Cover of Time

On June 27, 1994, Time magazine ran a cover story on the arrest of O.J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. In deciding on the cover, James Gaines, the Managing Editor of Time, had an abundance of photographs to choose from including a mug shot of Simpson released by the Los Angeles police department (LAPD). In addition, two portraits of Simpson were commissioned: one by the artist Greg Spalenka; and another by Matt Mahuring, a master of photo-illustration, who used the LAPD mug shot of Simpson as a starting point. After considering all the images available, Gaines selected Mahuring's work for the cover.

A storm of controversy followed publication of the cover. Time was accused of darkening Simpson's face "in a racist and legally prejudicial attempt to make him look more sinister and guilty, to portray him as some kind of animal" (Time, July 4, 1994, p.4). Others argued that the mug shot had been altered and that news photographs should never be altered. (During the same week, for example, Newsweek magazine used the "straight" LAPD mug shot for it's cover story on Simpson's arrest.)

In defending his decision to go with Mahuring's photo illustration on the cover, Gaines stated, "I found what he did . . . quite impressive. The harshness of the mug shot--the merciless bright light, the stubble on Simpson's face, the cold specificity of the picture--had been subtly smoothed and shaped into an icon of tragedy. The expression on his face was not merely blank now; it was bottomless. This cover, with the simple, non judgmental headline "An American Tragedy," seemed the obvious, right choice" (Time, July 4, 1994, p.4). To know that the cover was a photo-illustration the reader had to turn to the contents page or see the original mug shot on the opening page of the story.

Gaines further argued that ". . . every major news outlet routinely crops and retouches photos to eliminate minor, extraneous elements, as long as the essential meaning of the picture is left intact" (Time, July 4, 1994, p.4). While critics felt that Mahurin's work had indeed changed the picture fundamentally, Gaines maintained that Mahurin had "lifted a common police mug shot to the level of art" (Time, July 4, 1994, p.4).

  1. Would you say that Time was ethically wrong in using Mahurin's photo-illustration of Simpson on the cover? Why or why not?
  2. Does Gaines argument that he viewed Mahurin's illustration of Simpson as "art" rather than as a news photograph justify his decision to publish the work on Time's cover? Why or why not?
  3. Do news sources have a moral obligation to clearly indicate to their audience when they have used a computer to "alter" photographs in any way? Do image-makers in general (e.g., artists, filmmakers, photographers and videographers) have such an obligation? Why or why not?
  4. How has digital imaging changed the role and perception of photography in our society today?


For more on the role of digital-image manipulation, see Digital Image and Creation.


Can I copy the American Gothic?

Lorena Nice, an elementary art teacher, is working on a technology grant for her school. One of her goals it to use desktop publishing to create written materials for her students to use in the classroom. She has drawn many of her own examples for the project. But, when it comes to master art works she decides to scan reproductions of works such as the "American Gothic" and "Mona Lisa" from art postcards and history books to include in her class handouts.

  1. Has Ms Nice violated copyright law in this situation? If so, whose rights has she infringed upon?
  2. What if Ms Nice decides to put these images on a school web site so that other art teachers can see what she is doing? Is this a violation of copyright law?
  3. What alternative(s) does Ms Nice have in this situation? (e.g., Can Ms Nice create her own illustrations based on the art works?)


Is it right to make multiple copies of software, when it's for classroom use?

Ms Mann, a high school art teacher, has four new Macintosh computers, a color scanner and a color printer in her room purchased through a technology grant. In addition, several new graphics software programs were purchased (i.e., one copy each of Painter, Photoshop, PageMaker, and ClarisWorks). Ms Mann doesn't know much about computers; however, she's eager to learn with (and from) her students. In an effort to introduce computer art activities into her program, she gives a desktop-publishing assignment to her AP students requiring them to use Photoshop and PageMaker. There are 16 students in the class.

During the course of the project, Ms Mann notices that student progress is slowed down because they have to wait to use the one copy of each of the software programs available on the machines. One of her more computer-literate students suggests that things would move along quicker if he were to copy the Photoshop and PageMaker programs onto the other two machines. Eager to move the project along, Ms Mann decides to allow the student to do so.

(1) How would you characterize Ms Mann's decision to allow the student to copy the software? (Be prepared to defend your response.)

Extremely Unethical  Probably Unethical  Undecided  Ethical but with Reservation  Highly Ethical
(2) Let's say that Ms Mann decides not to allow copying of the software. Knowing that a number of students in her AP class own and or have access to a computer elsewhere with extensive graphic software, Ms Mann suggests that these students work on the project at home. The few students without such access are advised to use the computers in the art room when they are available outside of class. Is this fair? Why or why not?

(3) What alternatives does Ms Mann have in this situation?

Adi Boy's Home Page

Adi Boy, a tenth grade student, is anxious to create a home page for himself on the Web. He wants to create a really cool page to impress all his friends. But, being "artistically challenged," Adi doesn't feel capable of doing the kind of graphics he'd like to include on his page.

So, Adi goes surfing on the web and finds an image he likes of a "heavy metal" band, Fictional Tensions, on their home page. He downloads the image into his computer. Using a digital-imaging program, Adi pastes an image of his face on to the band's picture to make it appear as though he is a member of the group. He then adds a title to the image "Adi and the Boys in the Band" along with some colorful scribbles and marks. Proud of his work, Adi includes the "doctored" image on his home page:

  1. Would you say that Adi did anything wrong? Why or why not?
  2. Does Adi's use of the band's picture for personal expression justify it's use?
  3. Is Adi's use of the band's picture on his home page acceptable since the original image has been physically altered? Should Adi cite the source of the original band picture on his home page?
  4. If you were a member of the Fictional Tensions, how would you feel about what Adi Boy has done?

The Mickey Mouse Caper

Sally, a fourth grade student, recently went on a trip with her family to Disney world. After returning from her vacation, Sally decides to share her experience with others through her home page. In order to illustrate her adventure, Sally uses a scanner to copy several stickers and postcards she purchased of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other Disney characters. She then puts these graphics on her home page along with her written story.

  1. Is it okay for Sally to put the Disney characters on her home page? Why or why not?
  2. How would you feel if someone copied your artwork without your permission?

The Finger

The University is hosting a conference on the use of computers in education. Vice-President Cheney presented a keynote address on the Lawn, which was well photographed by the University News Bureau. A student in the background who was giving the camera the finger marred the best picture of the address. With today's technology, it is possible to alter the image to remove the student. Should the University knowingly allow the altered image to appear? Would there be any difference if the student in the background were holding a sign stating that the University unfairly exploits its teaching associates?

I wish I hadn't typed that.

George is unhappy with the way a class is being taught, and starts an e-mail dialog with a group of the students. Some of the comments are unflattering (to say the least), and obviously written in the heat of passion. George decides that the teaching is so bad that the socially responsible thing to do is bring the situation to the world. He posts a note to on a newsgroup, in which he includes some of the e-mail comments of the other students (complete with identifying header information). Pete, who was counting on getting a grad school recommendation from the professor, is mortified to see his comments made public. He asks the newsgroup moderator to remove the note from the news group and files a complaint against George. Would it be different if George had removed the identifying information?

Violation of rights?

While investigating unusual activity on one of their machines, computer staff find that Wilbur is running a password cracking program, and has a file containing several hundred cracked passwords. They immediately stop the program, delete the program and password files and close his account. Wilbur demands that his account be reinstated and the program and data files be restored. He says that this was an important intellectual work, and that he did nothing wrong (He claims he did not use the passwords to gain access to any accounts). He files a complaint with the computer department and the superintendent of the school district that the computer staff violated his privacy rights by looking into his account.

We've lost our bandwidth.

The response on one of the University's web servers has become very poor, making it virtually unusable for people in the institution. Examination of the system indicates that people outside the University are attempting to connect to three particular UVA student home pages at the rate of over 100 hits per minute. One of the pages contains scanned images from Playboy. Another advertises itself as The Official Serbian Homeland Web Site, while the third is a student's collection of photos of Jeffersonian architecture at UVA. What action should be taken?

Copy & Paste

A student needs some information to do a paper for a class. The student discovers helpful and relevant information on the Internet and decides to copy and paste the material onto the paper.  What are the relevant ethical issues involved in such a decision? How would you guide the student in making this decision and why?

Spy Games

The United States Government wants telephone companies to install technology which makes it easier to record people's phone calls without their knowledge. Do you support this policy? Why or why not?

I can't afford that (1)

A school which has only a tiny technology budget buys one copy of Photoshop for its lab; then installs it on all the computers in the lab. Although this practice is illegal, school administrators contend that the practice is ethical. What alternatives are available to the school? What advice would you offer the administration (given the available alternatives)? Why?

I can't afford that (2)

A friend has just bought a software package that would help you fulfill your educational goals. You don't have the money to purchase your own copy. Your friend offers to put copy the CD and give it to you. Identify key ethical issues related to this situation. How would you respond to these issues? Why?

You belong to me.

It is widely believed in the business world that e-mail written on company machines and during company time belongs to the company. The courts have supported this judgment. If you own a company and have reason to believe that reviewing employee e-mail will improve your company's productivity, would you do so? Why or why not?

Who's who?

A friend gets up from her computer briefly; she is logged on to her e-mail and you have the opportunity to send a funny message from "her" to one of her teachers. Would you take advantage of this opportunity? Why or why not? What are some of the underlying ethical issues involved in this set of circumstances?

Don't keep your feelings bottled up?

Given the nature of e-mail, some individuals have used this medium to express strong feelings they would otherwise be inclined to keep to themselves. In some cases, individuals have expressed hostile feelings about others, sometimes engaging in forms of "hate speech." What are your views on this type of communication? What do you see as key ethical issues in such instances? Do you believe the university should prohibit using e-mail in this way? Why or why not?

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Who watches the Watchers?

You have been offered a high paying position in a prestigious advanced technology firm. Your new employer instructs you to assist clients in using technology for purposes of surveillance. You have the knowledge and skills needed to provide such assistance. What are some of the key ethical issues this set of circumstances raises for you? How do you anticipate that you will address these issues? Why?

1  the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2 a  a set of moral principles or values 
   b  a theory or system of moral values <the present-day materialistic ethic
  the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group <professional ethics
   d  a guiding philosophy

2 involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval
3 conforming to accepted professional standards of conduct


1 conforms to the law


1 the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, and sell the matter and form (as of a literary, musical, or artistic work)

A party may seek to protect his or her copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in Federal district court.


The fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including mul-tiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. 

Gender Bending E-mail

Danny asked Julie to go out on a date. Julie refused. Danny, using an anonymous high school e-mail account, sought revenge by posting the following message posing as Julie on a alt.sex.chat group: "Hi, my name is Julie Tolooting. Looking for hot sex? I'm horny as hell. Call me at home for a hot date. My phone number is 219-429-9337" (he posted her actual home phone number.)

What kind of message does this send to Julie about who uses the internet and for what? If you were Julie, how would you feel about what Danny has done?

How should Danny, who is a minor, be disciplined?