Copyright Act: From all Perspectives

   The word “Free” means many things to many people. Businesses offer free software trials in an attempt to promote the use of their product. The idea is “Use the trial version for free” and if users like the product, they extend this trial offer by buying the “premium” or “professional version”. However, there is also a market for completely free proprietary soft wares. Copyright owners call this version of “Free”, “pirated” or “illegal download”. This industry is worth millions of dollars if not billions both in “illegal” distribution and prevention. Copyright owners lose millions while consumers save millions for products that they could otherwise not afford. Copyright infringement is not just limited to software but includes music, gaming, movies, documents etc. Whether it be downloading illegal software or reusing proprietary products in what is now called “plagiarism”, copyright infringement law applies to all.

    Copyright infringement is evident more on YouTube than anywhere else. Uploading video streams or even audio on you-tube automatically lets the copyright owner know that his/her contents are being used elsewhere by a different user anywhere in the world. A homemade video is no longer homemade if the music used in the video causes “copyright infringement”. This version of plagiarism is not just limited to YouTube but other video and audio streaming and sharing sites. Some sites monitor copyright infringements to avoid lawsuits while others deliberately let users upload “pirated” movies, videos, music and likewise, simply to increase their consumer traffic on the site and benefit from the advertisement revenue. Though many of these sites eventually close down, some still operate simply because the consumer population and support is ever so strong for “free” stuff. One does not need to go beyond sources like Google and Wikipedia to find the lawsuits these sites have suffered for hosting “proprietary movies and music” in a way that promotes “piracy”. Despite the lawsuits, the sites are still operational along with thousands if not millions of other sites that offer “illegal downloading “of movies and music. “The United States No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act), a federal law passed in 1997, in response to LaMacchia, provides for criminal prosecution of individuals who engage in copyright infringement under certain circumstances, even when there is no monetary profit or commercial benefit from the infringement. Maximum penalties can be five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.” (Wiki). In some countries, the laws are strict while in others where consumption of “pirated material” is strong, the law is not too strict. “Piracy” in these countries actually promotes business such as Internet Cafes, DVD booths, convenience stores etc. Nevertheless, recent crackdowns and business disclosure by police and officials in many of these countries have forced “piracy promoting businesses” to look for alternatives.

    Music Piracy is another form of “Copyright Infringement”. “In 2007, the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) reported that music piracy took $12.5 billion from the U.S. economy. According to the study, musicians and those involved in the recording industry are not the only ones who experience losses attributed to music piracy. Retailers have lost over a billion dollars, while piracy has resulted in 46,000 fewer production-level jobs and almost 25,000 retail jobs. The U.S. government was also reported to suffer from music piracy, losing $422 million in tax revenue” (Wiki). Music piracy, in fact, affects music producers, composers and ultimately economy throughout the world not just in one region. YouTube alone is claimed to have been spending “millions of dollars” to prevent copyright videos that create a loss of “millions of dollars” to copyright owners throughout the world. Music piracy is not just limited to YouTube and other video streaming sites but also P2P (peer to peer).  Though many p2p users have protested and continue to protest against the file-sharing laws, file sharing is still considered “piracy” and “Illegal”. “In one extreme example, the RIAA claimed damages against Lime Wire totaling $75 trillion – more than the global GDP – and “respectfully” disagreed with the judge’s ruling that such claims were “absurd”. However, this $75 trillion figure is obtained through one specific interpretation of copyright law that would count each song downloaded as an infringement of copyright. After the conclusion of the case, Lime Wire agreed to pay $105 million to RIAA” (Wiki). Music piracy also exists in the form of video remakes and reuse. Whether it’s an educational video or a gameplay video, many users decide to add in their favorite tracks using popular video editing software’s like “Windows Movie Maker”. Hence, the video that is supposed to get thousands of views and subscribers gets copyright strikes on YouTube instead.

    Last but not least, software industry too has “Piracy distribution”. This market often utilizes the networking capability of internet users to distribute “pirated” software. Whether openly through several software download sites or through peer to peer networks, it is a child’s play to find an illegal download of proprietary software over the net. With the consumer industry ever so demanding, the use of high tech software has become increasingly popular and so have “illegal downloads” for those who can find this treasure over the net. “In its 2011 report, conducted in partnership with IDC and Ipsos Public Affairs, the BSA stated: “Over half of the world’s personal computer users – 57 percent – admit to pirating software.” The ninth annual “BSA Global Software Piracy Study” claims that the “commercial value of this shadow market of pirated software” was worth US$63.4 billion in 2011, with the highest commercial value of pirated PC software existent in the U.S. during that time period (US$9,773,000).” (Wiki). Since the sales and service of the software industry are moving in the direction of emerging markets, the loss due to “piracy” is also moving in that direction. “The 2011 Business Software Alliance Piracy Study Standard, estimates the total commercial value of illegally copied software to be at $59 billion in 2010, with emerging markets accounting for $31.9 billion, over half of the total. Furthermore, mature markets for the first time received fewer PC shipments than emerging economies in 2010, making emerging markets now responsible for more than half of all computers in use worldwide” (Wiki). Hence, “piracy” is a global phenomenon.

    In conclusion, “copyright infringement” continues to have economic impacts. Whether copyright owner or the owner and user of “pirated products”, all have a role to play in this market. “Piracy” and “Copyright prevention” have a global market.  “The numbers may be beyond reason, but would $37 billion in gatekeeping costs be worth it to save part of the $58 billion lost from piracy as the MPAA states in its statistics.” Some choose to play by the rules and buy original soft wares while others involved in “Piracy”. Nevertheless, just like solutions to conflicts, some consider “Open- Source soft wares” as a solution to the problem. These soft wares include software to make your own beats and music and avoid music copyright as well as video editing software. With many open source software that has most if not all the capabilities of the proprietary software, one does not need to involve in “piracy” if one can’t afford proprietary software. Overall, open source software stop lawsuits, fines and even a trip to Alcatraz. Examples include but not limited to Opensource Virtual DJ and  Piano Notes from open source software.

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