Computer Ethics, Summer 2020 online

Tuesdays and Thursdays . We're scheduled for 5:30-8:45. The Comp 317 and 417 groups are in the process of being split into two sections. I still have not decided (even though it's been almost two hours since the split was announced to me) whether we'll meet all as a group, or whether we'll split it with 3:17 meeting 5:30-7:00 and 417 meeting 7:15-8:45. We might do a combination.

Because there are asynchronous class video lectures, we will NOT be meeting the full 3 hours 15 minutes.

General class structure: maybe start 317/417 split next week?

5/19 miniwriting assignment: What do you see as the future of copyright? Will it survive? Will enforcement become increasingly intrusive? What do you think? Write a few sentences on the Sakai forum, or, if you really prefer, send them to me by email. I'd like them by Thursday's class.

5/29 Paper 1

Class 1 Readings

Watch the first video, on filesharing (in the Sakai Panopto tab)

Read the first three sections of Baase chapter 1 and at least the first section of chapter 4, especially:

    Video sharing in §1.2.1
    Cellphone case-study in §1.2.2
    What is intellectual property?: §4.1.1

Before class 2, watch the second video, on ethical theory, and finish reading chapter 1 and read the first three sections of chapter 4.

The main course notes are in the Notes Organized by Topic section on the main web page. Reading assignments, comments on the class discussion and occasional special notices are in these week-by-week notes.


There will be three papers. For the first paper, you will be given an opportunity to rewrite it.

Plagiarism rules: be sure ALL quotations are marked as such, and also cited.

When you write, be sure you organize your points clearly and address the question. Grammar and style count for MUCH less!

In the past, I've had everyone participate in one or two "debates". I'm not quite sure yet how that will work for the online course, so for the moment that's on hold. If we go with it, I will publish a list of topics soon, and create a sign-up site. Topics will be in the form of declarative sentences; topics based on the examples above might be
  1. We need a strong DMCA takedown process to protect copyright holders
  2. Mass communications monitoring should be abolished; no government agency should be able to access even communications metadata without a finding of probable cause.

We will have an exam (via Sakai) at some point after the last class. It will cover basic facts, and also have questions like (a) argue for a given position, (b) argue against.

Example: is file-sharing stealing, if nobody lost anything?

Overview of some of the issues we will discuss this semester:

Class 1:

Case Studies from theory_filesharing.html




Getting caught

Ethical theory preview: problems

First look at Fair Use: how much use is fair, and why?

Facebook, Google, and freedom to talk about Covid19

Michael Eisner's June 2000 statement to Congress (edited, from Halbert & Ingulli 2004).