I use:

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Intellectual Property and Copyright

This is a rant. I'm sorry this blog is supposed to be here to help you understand technology and while it MAY do this I also believe that you need to understand the impact and purpose of copyright protection and the legal scope of intellectual property law.

I AM NOT A LAWYER, I am a concerned individual who believes in the purpose and foundation of the law. That said, everyone makes a choice regarding their actions and reasoning behind their choices. While the laws are designed to protect the creators, there may be some who feel justified in ignoring those laws because of high prices for software, DVDs, or music. My choice is clear, your choice may be equally as clear, the challenge is whether it is in line with or contrary to the law.

Copyright covers any work that is created by an artist, photographer, writer, musician, or programmer. Really it's the right of ownership that a person had over his creation. It is not like a patent and that's a different beast that's causing problems but the idea is that if you create an original work you own the rights to control the usage. You also have the right to sell it and you have the right to give it away. You have the right to license the work to one or more people for use and this right is protected by Copyright Law.

The act of piracy is theft. Whether it's on an ocean or in a store at the Pacific Mall, the impact is the same, theft. The idea that copying music or software is not theft is a perception problem. People provide their own media so they feel they're justified. They suggest that it's okay because they would hear it on the radio anyway. They suggest that they are simply backing up the media and "storing it at a friend's home"...

The excuses are lame and the inalienable right to protect copyright is granted to artists and companies that create! Copyright is more than just the protection of rights regarding redistribution, the work, as created, is protected from modification or augmentation. For years there were a flock of Canadian Geese hanging in the Toronto Eaton Centre, they were a wonderful display of carving and while I'm not sure if they're there anymore, they were a site to see inside a mall, as if in flight. Well, some wise-guy in the mall deceided to decorate them one year (for Christmas) by putting bows around their necks. The artist successfully sued for the defacing of his work. While he was commisioned to create the work for the Toronto Eaton Centre, he did not give up his right to the usage and this decoration was beyond the rights of the TEC.

The same is true of those who modify their XBOX, circumventing the protections put in place, the code delivered inside the sealed unit. This is specifically covered in many License Agreements and is a form of Copyright Infringement.

License Agreement... The permissions the creator of a work gives you, the purchaser of the license, surrounding the appropriate use of their creation. When you buy the Windows XP Upgrade, it is licensed for use on one (1) computer, without modification. You are not authorised to copy it for a friend, circumvent the anti-piracy functionality, or share access to it (through means provided by the OS) over a network with more than 5 other devices.

If you do not agree with this, STOP NOW, don't use the product. There are alternatives to expensive products, but you seem to get what you pay for. The reality is that if you buy a base-model economy vehicle it will not have the same features as its fully-loaded luxury vehicle. You get what you pay for. Likewise, with software, you may consider the low-cost alternatives of open-source software.

Each piece of software has a different License Agreement. Music is covered, generally, by the Copyright Act itself. There's fair use of any work, but the determination of fair use is a little grey. The idea is that you cannot re-create anything in it's entirety or in a significant portion, and if your intended use will generate a profit for you, you may need to enterinto another type of license agreement that covered royalties.

Copyright is protected by the law, breaking this law is commonly referred to as piracy, though other terms are valid as well. Technically it is called Copyright infringement but Bootlegging and plagarism are both in the same realm. In short, it is theft.

When you buy a PC and the operating system is installed, you should receive a license and a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) in the form of a sticker on the side of your PC. COA are not generally transferrable, oddly, from one PC to another. If you bought Microsoft Office with the PC, you should receive a COA and Media. If you don't have a COA you are not licensed, go download OpenOffice.org which is open source and it's survival is based upon your generousity.

Respecting the law means that you read, understand, and respect the license. You don't share software with friends and family unless the Licence Agreement says you can. Software rental is not typically legal so don't consider that option.

Face facts and the reality of it all. If you copy software, DVDs, music, artwork, or even a term paper you are committing copyright infringement. You are liable to be prosecuted under the full extent of the law though you may never be. Your safeguard is the practicality of prosecuting the offenders, big companies simply don't have the time or money to waste targetting individuals. In stead they contribute to organisations that do this for them. BSA and CAAST target companies and resellers that pirate product using an Anton-Pillar order. Police forces assist or enforce in the fight depending on the stakes, but individuals are rarely targetted. The companies invest heavily in software and tools to protect their works. While Windows XP has their registration/activation system, Sony CDs featured a rather unruly software method. People complain about these methods, and Sony's methodology was just a bad idea, but the cause of these uncomfortable efforts are the people who pirate the software and music.

The basic truth here is, regardless of the expense of costs, you are not entitled to commit theft simply because you can't afford the lastest OS, Office Suite, CD or DVD. If you can't find the time to watch pervious seasons on A&E then you do not need to pirate your friend's DVD. If you can't afford the latest CD or Puretracks download of RUSH, you can hear it on the radio.

THEFT IS NOT COOL! PIRACY IS THEFT! If your son or daughter was caught stealing a chocolate bar from the store, what would you do? If they see you downloading music and pirating games, DVDs, or software what the hell are you teaching them?

It's your choice and I admit that paying $300 for a Windows XP Professional upgrade is painful, but is it more painful than installing Linux and haveing compatibility issues. Linux is getting better, begin cheering and supporting that cause if you want to reduce your costs, but think about your choices and your decisions.