Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 15 Number 1 1998 pp. 213-237

Testing an Ethical Decision-Making Theory: The Case of Softlifting

Thong, James Y L and Chee-sing, Yap

ABSTRACT: There is a lack of both theoretical and empirical research on the process of ethical decision making in the domain of information systems (IS). As a step in this direction, the authors describe and test a general ethical decision-making theory developed in the marketing discipline. They conducted a study on the ethical decision-making process of 243 entry-level IS professionals with regard to softlifting--that is, illegal copying of software for personal use. The results show support for the applicability of the tested ethical decision-making theory to the domain of IS, specifically in the context of softlifting. Entry-level IS professionals were found to use both deontological and teleological evaluations to arrive at an ethical judgment of a moral issue. Subsequently, moral intention to pursue softlifting behavior is primarily determined by the ethical judgment. These findings have implications for both research and practice.

Key words and phrases: computer ethics, ethical decision-making, softlifting, software piracy