What Is Piracy?
Computers and the internet are tools. Before the computer was available to households, we enjoyed music at the concert hall or listened to records and the radio. When we wanted to share our music and movies with family and friends, we invited them to our house or the concert hall. We let them borrow our records and hope they returned them. We did not make a copy of the record and give it to them. We now have the technology for households to reproduce and copy material at a reasonable cost using the tools of the computer and the internet.
Everyone knows it is disrespectful and against the law to steal. Reproducing copyrighted work, without the permission of the copyright holder, for the purpose of sharing with others (distributing) is wrong and is against the law when fair use limitations are exceeded. The tool used to copy doesn’t matter. It violates the rights of the copyright holder. This is no different than taking something from a retail store without paying. Software piracy is no different than petty theft or robbery.
When you buy a CD, DVD, computer software, or a computer with software installed in a store, online or as a download, you are buying the right to use the software according to the conditions in the End-User License Agreement (EULA). You are not buying the software itself or the copyright to the software. The buyer is not an owner. The buyer is a licensed user.
The EULA is found in the software itself, in accompanying literature, or on a webpage before the link to the download. There are no guidelines or restrictions as to the language used or what should be included in the EULA. Before using, downloading, or installing software, the end user must agree to the EULA. Otherwise, the download, installation, or use of the software will not be allowed. It is the responsibility of each end user (consumer) to cipher, interpret, and understand each restriction and privilege specified in the EULA. Many EULAs are complex and not written so everyone can easily understand. The EULAs tell the buyer how they can use the software and provide the owner with legal protection.
There is controversy surrounding software piracy. The Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Privacy Information Center are two organizations that represent the rights, privileges, and interests of consumers related to the use of electronics, computers, the internet, and software. Please visit their websites to find out how they try to protect you through discussions with lawmakers, copyright holders, and companies to balance fairness, privacy, responsibilities and rights of everyone involved. The Business Software Alliance in the USA and the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft in Canada represent software manufacturers. These two organizations are working together to present their viewpoints and concerns and to create awareness and promote the education of consumers and sellers in regard to software piracy. The Entertainment Software Association represents computer and video game copyright holders. The Software & Information Industry Association represents software and digital content copyright holders. The Recording Industry Association of America represents music industry copyright holders. The Motion Picture Association of America represents movie industry copyright holders. In September 2004 the FBI created an Anti-Piracy Warning Seal. So far, members of the BSA, ESA, MPAA, RIAA and SIIA are licensed to use the Anti-Piracy Seal. Eventually, all copyright holders may have the option to use the seal according to specific guidelines yet to be established.
This post is part of the series: Piracy and the Home Computer User
Is it possible for the home computer user to unintentionally steal from the internet? This series highlights the most common temptations and how to avoid them.