Consumers and Piracy
Wanting to share software, music, and movies with family and friends is commonplace. Most consumers do not consider installing one software program they bought on more than one computer in the household or sharing music and movies with friends as violating the law. You need to read and understand the EULA before you use the copyrighted material.
Preteens and teenagers as a group typically want to share music with friends more than any other age group. Some people believe the internet is or should be free. Unfortunately, the internet is not free. Consumers pay to connect to the internet. We pay for online purchases from neighborhood stores we have already done business with. And, sometimes we pay for information online. The internet is a tool that should be used responsibly and respectfully.
American copyright holders have a First Amendment right for recognition of their creations. How do we maintain the rights of the copyright holders while providing innovative technologies so consumers can share their passions using digital media without fear of violating the law?
Many music CDs have a limit for how many times you can copy the content of the CD. This allows you to copy your paid-for music to different tools for listening: your computer, iPod, MP3 player, storage disk, notebook computer, etc. Many people like to create “mix compilations” using the same song in different compilations. Typically, three to seven copies are allowed for music CDs. For software programs, typically you are allowed to install on one desktop computer and either make one backup copy or install on one laptop computer. This information is contained in the EULA accompanying the software. You have to read and understand the EULA to find out what you can and can’t do with the software you purchased. Unfortunately, even if you just help someone make unauthorized copies of copyrighted material for distribution to friends or people you know without monetary compensation, you are still liable under present American copyright law.
Giving someone a copy of files, videos, or music that you bought is a crime in the United States. It does not matter whether the file is on a cassette tape, a VCR tape, a DVD, a CD, or as a download. You can enjoy the file, music or video with your friend as long as you use the copy you bought. The instant another copy is made (beyond the restrictions of the EULA), you are breaking the law. You can make an illegal file by copying a paid-for CD or DVD to a hard drive or another CD or DVD; sending the paid-for file as an email attachment or uploading the paid-for file to a server for others to download.
If an employee is installing unauthorized software copies on company computers or acquiring illegal software through the internet, the company can be sued for copyright infringement. This is true even if the company’s management was unaware of the actions of the employee.
The question at the heart of this issue seems to be: “What is fair use?” What is fair use for me may not be enough use or may be too much use for you. Lawmakers must decide exactly what is fair use by consumers to balance the rights and privileges of both the copyright holders and the majority of consumers. So, until guidelines or laws are nationally and globally established specifically for the fair use of digital media, you can limit your personal liability by remembering:
- If you didn’t pay for it, don’t take it.
- Make only enough copies of your paid-for music and movies for use by your immediate family.
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.