Copyright and Piracy
Copyright is the legal protection of all forms creative expression on any form of media.
Be aware of the limits of the fair use of intellectual property, which is protected under copyright law in cyberspace as well as the real world.
To the general public, intellectual property, in the form of computer software and digitized entertainment, is a highly tempting target for reproduction and distribution. But intellectual property is protected under copyright law in cyberspace as well as the real world, and you need to be aware of the limits of your fair use. Illegal duplication, filesharing or use of any type of intellectual property constitutes copyright infringement and could be subject to university disciplinary action and civil and criminal penalties, including fines.
Creators Own Exclusive Rights
According to Ohio State's document on Virtual Legality, "copyright law generally gives authors, artists, composers, and other such creators the exclusive right to copy, distribute, modify, and display their works or to authorize other people to do so. Moreover, creators' works are protected by copyright law from the very moment that they are created — regardless of whether they are registered with the Copyright Office and regardless of whether they are marked with a copyright notice or symbol [©]. That means that virtually every e-mail message, posting, web page, or other computer work you have ever created - or seen - is copyrighted."
Also according to OSU's Virtual Legality document, you may reproduce copyrighted materials only if one of these four instances apply:
- The owner has given you permission
- The work is in the "public domain"
- It falls under "fair use"
- You have an "implied license" to do so.
Admittedly, the latter three require more explanation than can be given in this overview, so you are strongly urged to consult the full document or a lawyer for more information.
In conclusion, copying material in digitized form is easy to do, but that doesn't make it legal. Avoid the temptation to reproduce copyrighted material in any form and on any media, unless you have explicit permission to do so.
Piracy is the popular term for the illegal activity that is more correctly known as copyright infringement. Software piracy involves the violation of license agreements and occurs when you download, copy, fileshare, install, or distribute digitized material in the form of computer software programs and entertainment media without authorization from the owner/creator.
The following information describes relevant trade groups and their perspectives on the various media products that are piracy targets:
License Not Ownership
The purchase of a computer program or any form of entertainment or artistic expression on any type of media that includes, but is not limited to, CD, DVD, mp3 file, video, or audiotape, simply gives you a license to use your personal copy; purchase does not constitute ownership of the "intellectual property" on the media. The U.S. Copyright Act expressly protects the intellectual property contained on these media and grants the creators exclusive rights to copy, adapt, distribute, rent, and publicly perform and display their works.
Reasonable people would agree that shoplifting any of these products in stores is theft, yet some don't extend that logic to digitized formats. But when you use your personal copy for any purpose beyond what is expressly permitted by the license, you could be committing a federal offense and may be subject to civil and criminal prosecution (see below) as well as university disciplinary action.
The rationalization that "just one copy can't hurt" multiplies exponentially if thousands or millions of people think that way. When you pirate any creative material, you are stealing more from the manufacturers than the cost of a single copy. Consider the resources that go into producing intellectual property. Companies invest millions to employ creative teams, manufacture, distribute, advertise and market product. Anyone employed at any stage along the line, including the retail store clerk, loses when you copy or share illegally.
If the negative impact on the economy and fellow workers isn't enough reason to stay legal, keep in mind that some companies in the entertainment and computer software industries have prosecuted individual offenders in civil courts and sought monetary damages. The U.S. government can impose fines or imprisonment, or both. So the next time you're tempted, ask yourself, "is it worth it?" Resolve to purchase a legal copy instead.
RIAA, Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group representing U.S. sound recording companies, is the force behind the prosecution of individuals for copyright infringement through downloading or uploading of music through illegal peer-to-peer networks and CD piracy. The RIAA ask consumers to support the industry by downloading music from legitimate sites such as those on the list at musicunited.org instead of engaging in piracy.
musicunited.org is a web collective that includes the RIAA and industry companies involved with artists, writers and musicians. Musicunited.org states that "whether you're using peer-to-peer services like Kazaa to 'share' digital music files with millions of people on the Internet or compiling a collection of your favorite songs and then using a CD burner to make copies for all your friends, copying and distributing copyrighted music without permission is illegal and it's a drag."
Video and Film Entertainment
MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America, works to prevent piracy of film and video products. The MPAA estimates that piracy of video content costs the industry more than $3 billion annually in potential revenue in the U.S., not including Internet losses, which are difficult to calculate.
The MPAA lists many types of materials subject to pirating: Optical Disc, which includes Laser Discs (LD), Video Compact Discs (VCD) and Digital Versatile Discs (DVD); Internet, videocassette and broadcast; downloadable media; hard goods; streaming media; circumvention devices; camcording; screeners; back-to-back copying; signal theft; and public performance.
BSA, Business Software Alliance, which describes itself as the voice of the world's commercial software industry, estimates that the U.S. has lost billions of dollars annually in wages and tax revenues, and thousands of individuals have lost jobs. The BSA describes the following scenarios for software piracy:
- using one licensed copy to install a program on multiple computers
- copying disks for installation and distribution
- taking advantage of upgrade offers without purchasing a legal copy of the version to be upgraded
- acquiring academic or other restricted or non-retail software without a license for commercial use
- swapping disks with others
- downloading software from various Internet sources such as pirate websites, peer-to-peer networks, and auction sites that offer counterfeit software
The BSA also notes that pirated computer software doesn't save you much when you consider the problems associated with illegal copies: defective software, little or no documentation or technical support, no warranties, a greater exposure to viruses, and ineligibility for software upgrades.
More information on software piracy:
- Ohio State document on Virtual Legality written by the university's legal counsel
- Ohio State's Policy on Responsible Use of University Computing Resources
- U.S. Copyright Law Office
- Software and Information Industry Association (SIAA)