Comp 317-01W / 417-001

Social, Ethical and Legal Issues in Computing

Peter Dordal, Loyola University CS Dept

Summer 2019: Tuesdays and Thursdays 5:30-8:30ish, Corboy 422

Text: The textbook will be A Gift of Fire, 5th Edition, by Sara Baase and Timothy Henry, Prentice-Hall, 2017. This is also available in an e-book format.

There will be three writing assignments during the semester; the first writing assignment will have a rewriting component, as you resubmit your first draft.

For undergraduates, this course counts as Writing Intensive.

There will also be one debate/presentation assignment.

There are no exams.

My general course groundrules are here. Loyola's academic integrity rules are here.

You are expected to be familiar with the rules for quoting other sources in papers.

Notes and Readings

Notes Organized by Topic

Filesharing and Ethical Theory classes 1 and 2

Copyright Laws and Lawsuits: classes 2, 3 and 4

Privacy from the government classes 4 and 5

Privacy from others: classes 5, 6, 7

Free Speech and the Internet: classes 7, 8, 9

Software Patents: classes 10, 11

Antitrust, class 11

Crime and Hacking: class 12

Course notes

Most content is now in the files above.

Class 1: May 21
Class 2: May 23
Class 3: May 28
Class 4: May 30
Class 5: Jun 4
Class 6: Jun 6
Class 7: Jun 11
Class 8: Jun 13
Class 9: Jun 18 Class 10: Jun 20
Class 11: Jun 25 Class 12: Jun 27         


Before the first class, read Baase 1.1-1.3 and at least 4.1 (preferably 4.2 as well)

Before the second class, read all of chapter 1 and 4.1-4.3.

Paper topics

Paper 1: Music Sampling or Sci-Hub (tentative), draft due Sunday June 2. Revision due Sunday June 9.

Paper 2: Facebook and Cambridge Analytica or Does Section 230 Need Revision, due Friday June 21.

Paper 3: Software patents or Big-Tech Antitrust, due Friday June 28.

Here are two writing samples, one good and one less good, that may be useful: essay_demos.pdf.

We will consider some of the topics listed below.

Articles, references, and links


Don't Talk To Cops, Part 1, James Duane, Regent University Law School

And an interesting followup: Reminder: Please Shut Up (advice from an attorney)


Association for Computing Machinery -- The professional organization for computer professionals (oriented towards programmers). See their USACM subgroup for public-policy issues. See also the ACM Code of Ethics.

Electronic Frontier Foundation -- Founded to fight for citizens' rights in the areas of privacy, cyberspace freedom (specifically, freedom of speech), copyrights, and encryption.

American Civil Liberties Union -- Not specifically concerned with cyberspace law, but nonetheless very involved in the fight against the Communications Decency Act. The ACLU has long fought against censorship in any form, and for personal liberties in general.

Electronic Privacy Information Center -- They are concerned with both government surveillance (directly and by searching your records), the scope of government databases, and encryption.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility -- "CPSR is a public-interest alliance of computer scientists and others interested in the impact of computer technology on society." Includes privacy issues but also professional responsibilities of programmers and workplace empowerment issues.

Ethics Center for Engineering and Science A useful compendium of ethics case studies and other information pertaining to science and engineering.

US Copyright office home page All sorts of information on copyright legislation, including the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

2600, the Hacker Quarterly, leader in the fight for DeCSS.