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Essay on Copyright

The laws relating to copyright are universal ones and were created to safeguard the original works of authors. Another aim is to promote the creation of beneficial arts and science by securing for artists, inventors, and authors, for a limited time, the sole rights to their respective inventions, discoveries, and writings (Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution). The law allows authors to exclusively own their works and it legally enables them to prevent others from using their creations or works. It is possible to place copyright on anything with tangible form e.g. works of architecture, art, or literature, but publicly-accessible materials are not covered. It was in 1790 that copyright first came into being although many pre-twentieth century creations were not subjected to the law. The way copyright length is determined is basically to add seventy (70) years to the author’s natural lifespan and it is not renewable. This particular essay focuses on three primary elements of copyright as this pertains to Internet material. The essay will discuss 1) copyright laws as they currently exist, 2) infringement of existing laws, and 3) why it is important to know and understand copyright law.

How copyright law applies to the Internet differs from country to country but similar principles tend to apply. The Fair Dealing Act permits people to make use of part of an original text without the author’s permission. However, it is necessary to cite the name of the person who authored the original work and the name of the source any borrowed material originated from. Borrowed material should only be used to a reasonable extent and only for the purposes of teaching, research, comment, or critiquing and where there is no commercial gain. Where photographs or pictures are copied, the borrower is obliged to always seek permission from the content owner with four exceptions. These are a) where material is government-owned, b) publication took place prior to 1922, c) the material is registered through an official copyright source, and d) the material is publicly available or is advertised as being free. Failure to abide by these rules and regulations is referred to as plagiarism. The laws concerning software use are quite simple. It is permissible to store one version or copy of a program on the owner’s computer and make one back-up copy. Any additional copies one makes or distributes are known as piracy. Any profit a person makes from registering the trademarks of another person as their own is known as cyber-squatting and it is illegal even though it is not as frequently done or as easy to do as it once was. Copyright laws are designed to protect the original works of their creator and give businesses the opportunity to advance. These laws allow members of the public to view or use works subject to certain restrictions, which are minimal considering the vast quantities of information the Internet offers.

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Although it is a federal offense, copyright infringements are common where the Internet is concerned. The problem of software piracy is widespread around the world. According to Webopedia (2003), increasing numbers of lawsuits are being launched for the worst breaches. It is relatively easy to copy software so these products are very susceptible to violation. By encouraging software users to give copies to other users, Shareware tries to reduce the problem of piracy, hoping that users will enjoy the products enough to purchase full versions or pay minimal fees direct to the authors of the various products. Software piracy does not just have an impact on the company that makes it, but it also affects the users because they do not get any documentation, information on updates, or user support. Copying of software reduces a product’s worth, which makes it difficult for small development companies to remain in business. The practice of cyber-squatting is an illegal one that emerged at about the same time the Internet came into existence. Because individuals and businesses were not at first aware of the potential and power of the Internet it was believed by some that it would be profitable to register a well-known brand or trademark and bide time until the real owner of the product realized the powerful potential of the Internet. They could then offer the domain name back to the real product owner for a price. Some well-known victims of cyber-squatting included Avon, Hertz, and Panasonic. Nowadays, people understand how important it is to have a domain name, and this has reduced the propensity for cyber-squatter. The Internet’s most widespread illegal activity is plagiarism, which is extremely easy but has serious consequences. It is easy for search engines to locate those who engage in plagiarism, thus allowing authors to find unauthorized copies of their original works and take action against offenders. Forwarding on an email with an alteration to the originally intended use also constitutes plagiarism. If students are found to have plagiarized, they face a reduction in marks, failure, or even expulsion. Copyright infringement is breaking the law and violating the intellectual property rights of legal authors, depriving them of the credit they are due for their diligent efforts and hard work and possibly involving them in extensive lawsuits. 

It is extremely important to know what copyright law is and to understand the implications. People can save literally millions of valuable dollars by adhering to the rules. Copyright is all about protection and to breach it is to deny other people the right to claim credit for their work and achievements. Additionally, as noted above, being knowledgeable in copyright law can also mean the difference between success or failure (or disqualification) in academic terms. It encourages students and the public in general to create an original work to share with the world.  

Perhaps more importantly, being conversant with copyright law allows for a smoother-running system and room for people to improve their work.

Copyright as it pertains to the Internet is a much-valued law that is often not taken with the seriousness it deserves. Infringement of copyright is very unfair for all concerned. It is inhibitive where innovation is concerned, it makes life difficult for businesses, it reduces the value of an author’s or artist’s work, and it prevents authors and artists getting credit for the time, effort, and hard work they put into creating works for everyone’s enjoyment. If infringement of copyright is to be reduced or eliminated, better laws and stronger penalties will be needed. The number of systems in the marketplace for burning DVDs and CDs are a contradiction to copyright laws, making these practices almost legal. Who would purchase a product when they can produce if for a fraction of the cost? Who will know if you copy content from the Internet? The greatest threat to copyright is the Internet and its future seems in doubt while these issues remain unresolved.