The wrangling over the status of software engineering (between traditional engineers and computer scientists) can be interpreted as a fight over control of the word engineering. Traditional engineers question whether software engineers can legally use the term.
Traditional engineers (especially civil engineers and the NSPE) claim that they have special rights over the term engineering, and for anyone else to use it requires their approval. In the mid-1990s, the NSPE sued to prevent anyone from using the job title software engineering. The NSPE won their lawsuit in 48 states. However, SE practitioners, educators, and researchers ignored the lawsuits and called themselves software engineers anyway. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the term software engineer, too. The term engineering is much older than any regulatory body, so many believe that traditional engineers have few rights to control the term. As things stand at 2007, however, even the NSPE appears to have softened its stance towards software engineering and following the heels of several overseas precedents, is investigating a possibility of licensing software engineers in consultation with IEEE, NCEES and other groups "for the protection of the public health safety and welfare".
In Canada, the use of the words 'engineer' and 'engineering' are controlled in each province by self-regulating professional engineering organizations, often aligned with geologists and geophysicists, and tasked with enforcement of the governing legislation. The intent is that any individual holding themselves out as an engineer (or geologist or geophysicist) has been verified to have been educated to a certain accredited level, and their professional practice is subject to a code of ethics and peer scrutiny.
In New Zealand, IPENZ, the professional engineering organization entrusted by the New Zealand government with legal power to license and regulate chartered engineers (CPEng), recognizes software engineering as a legitimate branch of professional engineering and accepts application of software engineers to obtain chartered status provided he or she has a tertiary degree of approved subjects. Software Engineering is included but Computer Science is normally not