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hacker ethic, the

hacker ethic, the: n. 1. The belief that information-sharing
   is a powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of
   hackers to share their expertise by writing free software and
   facilitating access to information and to computing resources
   wherever possible.  2. The belief that system-cracking for fun
   and exploration is ethically OK as long as the cracker commits
   no theft, vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.
   Both of these normative ethical principles are widely, but by no
   means universally, accepted among hackers. Most hackers subscribe
   to the hacker ethic in sense 1, and many act on it by writing and
   giving away free software.  A few go further and assert that
   *all* information should be free and *any* proprietary
   control of it is bad; this is the philosophy behind the GNU

Sense 2 is more controversial: some people consider the act of cracking itself to be unethical, like breaking and entering. But the belief that `ethical' cracking excludes destruction at least moderates the behavior of people who see themselves as `benign' crackers (see also samurai). On this view, it may be one of the highest forms of hackerly courtesy to (a) break into a system, and then (b) explain to the sysop, preferably by email from a superuser account, exactly how it was done and how the hole can be plugged --- acting as an unpaid (and unsolicited) tiger team.

The most reliable manifestation of either version of the hacker ethic is that almost all hackers are actively willing to share technical tricks, software, and (where possible) computing resources with other hackers. Huge cooperative networks such as USENET, FidoNet and Internet (see Internet address) can function without central control because of this trait; they both rely on and reinforce a sense of community that may be hackerdom's most valuable intangible asset.