Ethical, Legal, Cultural and Environment Concerns Unit Eight – OCR Computer Science GCSE

1.8 Ethical, Legal, Cultural and Environment Concerns


Computer Legalisation:

The Data Protection Act (1998): Determines what organisations can do with personal data that they have collected. Data must be used and processed in a fair lawful way. It must be only used for the stated purpose. Data must be relevant for the specified use. Data must be accurate and kept up to date. There are eight principles of the data protection act:

-Data should not kept longer than necessary

-Data should only be used according to the rights of the data subject

-Data should be kept safe and secure.

-Data must not be transferred to organisations within other countries that do not offer a similar level of protection.

Computer Misuse Act (1990): It is illegal to modify or destroy a computer system, software or data without authorisation. For example, creating, obtaining or deploying malware is a criminal offence.  It is illegal to attempt to gain access a computer or its contents without authorisation. It is illegal to attempt to access a network of device with the intent of committing further criminal activity.

Copyright Designs and Patents Act (1988):

Copyright: This is used to protect intellectual property:

-It is illegal to make copies of copyrighted material.

-It is illegal to share copyrighted material.

-It is illegal to use unlicensed software.

-It is illegal to plagiarise someone’s creative work.

Patents Act: used to cover new inventions. This protects the ideas and concepts rather than actual content.

Issues with this Copyright Designs and Patents Act:

-The internet makes file sharing very easy. This makes it harder to protect copyrighted content.

Creative Commons Licensing: Allows you to legally share media and software online without having to ask for permission first.

Types of Creative Commons Licensing:

Attribution – Work can be shared, copied or modified, but the copyright holder has to be credited.

Share-alike – Modified works can be only distributed with the same license terms as the original.

Non-Commercial – Nobody can use the copyrighted work for profit.

No Derivative works – The work can be copied and distributed, but can’t be modified or built open.

Freedom of Information Act 2000: This is an act that allows the public to have the right of access to information held by public authorities.


Open Source Vs Proprietary Software:

Open source software: is software released where the source code can be accessed and can be modified to a user’s will.

Advantages of Open Source Software: Disadvantages of Open Source Software:
It is usually free Small projects may not get regular updates
Made for the greater good, not profit – it benefits everyone, encourages collaboration, sharing of data. Can be buggy.
Software can be adapted by users to fit their needs. May have limited user documentation
Wide pool of collaborators can be move creative and innovative than the programmers of one company No warranties if something goes wrong
Popular software is very reliable of secure – any problems are quickly solved by the community. No customer support (although the community will often make up for this)
Companies using open-source code to make custom software may not want competitors to see their source code, but they have no choice.


Proprietary Software: is software where only the compiled code is released and the source code is closed. This type of software restricts the modification of the software.

Advantages Of Proprietary Software: Disadvantages Of Proprietary Software:
Comes with warranties, documentation and customer support Can be expensive
Should be well-tested and reliable as the company’s reputation depends on this. Fixes and updates will come regularly Software may not exactly fit a user’s needs and they can’t do anything about it
Usually cheaper for companies then developing their own custom-built software. Software Companies may not maintain older software after warranties expire. They will want people to buy their latest product.


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