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Ethical Issues in Software DevelopmentPage 9Ron Garrett and Jennifer Lewis

Non-competeagreement:
Adocument signed byan employee thatpromises that the saidemployee will not workfor a direct
competitor for a specific amountof time after s/heleaves the
company(http://www.nolo.com)Companies try to prevent talent from going to competitive firms
by having its employees sign
non-compete
agreements. However, even with a signed non-competeagreement, companies can still face a
legal battle over the wordingof the document, including whether the document is impeding
anemployees right to work (Noncompete agreements, 2006). If the company did not require
its employees to sign non-competeagreements, a competing company can easily take its talent
poolfrom another company. However, even without the non-compete clause, the company can
facecivil action from the competitor.There are two examples that highlight civil actions taken by
companies due to talent raiding. Thefirst example highlights the legal issues of talent
raiding. The second example highlights thequestioning of the non-compete agreement.In 2005,
the case of Yahoo v. Nuance Technologies appeared in the California court. This caseaddressed
the issue of whether talent raiding was causing a misappropriation of trade secretsand unfair
competition. According to the article by Elinor Mills on C-Net News (Yahoo, 2005):Nuance
Technologies was working on voice-activated search engines. Yahoo hired allbut one of the
research people on the project. Nuance filed a lawsuit with the Californiacourts to
temporarily bar the workers from working at Yahoo. The judge ruled that thespeech engineers
hired by Yahoo were allowed to continue working for Yahoo becausethe courts could not
properly assess whether any wrongdoing has occurred.In 2006, the case of Microsoft v. Google
appeared in the Washington court. This case addressedwhether a non-compete agreement was
violated. According to the article by Elinor Mills on C-NetNews (Microsoft, 2006):Google hired
Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft executive from China, to run the Chinesebranch of
Google. However, Microsoft contends that the role that Mr. Lee would performat Google
(recruiting staff for the developer center in China) was a direct violation of thenon-compete
agreement that Mr. Lee signed at Microsoft. The court ruled that recruitingworkers in China was
not a violation of the non-compete agreement, but he was notallowed to work on technologies,
set budgets or salaries, or decide on what researchGoogle can do in China.

Ethical Issues in Software DevelopmentPage 10Ron Garrett and Jennifer Lewis


Solving Ethical Problems
Ethical problems in the software industry can cause legal ramifications, such as civil suits
andfines, and it can cause business ramifications, such as a ruined reputation that will cost
thecompany sales. What can software developers and companies do to help prevent problems?
While these suggestions may help prevent problems caused by unethical behavior, it is not
aguarantee that they will solve all the problems.

Assign task to a compliance officer to make sure that the licenses are being
usedproperly

Watchdog groups can easily find out whether a company is violating software copyright
andlicensing rules. The best resource that a watchdog company uses is a disgruntled
employee.By assigning a compliance officer (preferably from the IT department) to ensure that
softwareis being used as it is licensed, companies can reduce illegal software use.

Perfect quality assurance


Since there are very little legal ramifications for bugs and security flaws causing
systemproblems, companies will easily spend little time on testing problems and addressing
knownbugs. However, the ethical issue is the cost of business. Businesses lose millions
of dollarsin lost productivity due to bugs and security flaws. A software developer and the
softwarecompany can lose business and future revenues because of a ruined reputation. The
bestthing that a company can do is invest time and money in quality assurance. While
qualityassurance is not going to catch every bug imaginable, it will catch a high percentage of
thebugs and flaws.

Consult with legal department about non-compete agreements and fair use withreverse
engineering
Non-compete agreements, which are helpful with preventing talent raiding, and the fair use
of reverse engineering has numerous legal implications. Before beginning a project where

Ethical Issues in Software DevelopmentPage 11Ron Garrett and Jennifer Lewis


reverse engineering is necessary, or before devising a non-compete agreement, companiesand
developers should consult with an attorney who is familiar with these subjects. Theattorney can
guide the developers and companies with the correct way to perform theseactions.

Let public know about flaws or delay the software release


Despite the fact that Microsoft is well known for releasing bug-laden software (Bishop,
2003),Microsoft is very good about releasing information about bugs and flaws to the public
as soonas they are discovered. Microsoft has also been known to delay the release of software
if there are too many problems with the software. By doing this, Microsoft has helped
itsreputation as a leading software provider. Although a customer may not be happy about
adelay or a flaw, the customer will accept the answer if s/he is given ample warning about
theproblem.

Publish ethical guidelines on software development and use


Publishing a guideline about software development and use can leave little room
for interpretation, which could help reduce unethical and potentially illegal
behavior. Twoexamples of companies who published ethical guidelines are IT Outsourcing India
andVirginia Tech. When developing a guideline, companies and developers should consult
withan attorney who is familiar with the legal issues of software development