Friday, February 18, 2011

Copyright : Fair or Unfair?

Is copyright laws really fair? Do they make sense? Do they aggravate you when you are trying to post a picture on a forum, facebook, or website? Is it annoying when you are trying to locate a song but all it gives you is a short portion of it? These are all questions that have to do with certain opinions towards copyright laws. After reading this weeks readings, I understand why there are copyright laws. They have laws to protect the actual creator or publisher of these images, songs, videos, etc... Probably one of the most recent copyright instances I remember and experienced was from music providers like Limewire and Napster. These consisted of different softwares where you could "share" files with other users to retain music. This is where most people to if they wanted to retain a song and put it on their ipod, mp3 players, zune, etc... However, both Limewire and Napster were shut down for a period of time and reopened with a software where you had to pay to download a song or video. Itunes is probably the most popular legal music downloading software throughout the United States because it has a great reputation and is trusted by many.

The word that comes up a lot with copyrighting is "pirated." What exactly is "pirated?" Lawrence Lessig talks about it in his article, Free Culture. Lessig explains copyright and sums it up by saying, "A person may use a copy by playing it, but he has no right to rob the author of the profit, by multiplying copies and disposing of them for his own use." This makes a lot of sense and pretty much sums up the entire concept of copyright and whether its "legal" or "illegal" to do something. Personally, I have been offered "pirated" DVDs plenty of times for a discounted price. I actually recently bought a box set of DVDs from a website for the whole Boy Meets World seasons. I was unaware they were pirated until I received them in the mail. When I received them, all the disks were the same and I could tell they came from burned empty CDs. When I put the first DVD in, the little "DISNEY" icon was on the bottom left of the screen that shows that they just copied the episode from that station. As soon as I typed their business in on GOOGLE, so many negative reviews came up saying the same thing and that they are located in China. I sat there and wondered to myself, "How do they get away with this? They have thousands of TV seasons on their website."

Lessig goes on to talk about how all these copyrighting laws came to be and how "pirating" had been invented. Lessig blames most of the problems on the Internet by saying, "Peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing is among the most efficient of the efficient technologies the Internet enables." This relates back to what I said earlier on Napster and Limewire. That is how it made these types of programs so popular because of the peer-to-peer file sharing. If it was up to me about someone wanting to use my copyrighted material, I would want someone to ask for my permission and only be able to use it in certain situations such as to advertise for my company or product. If they are giving out my information or material, then I want something back for it. However, I am somewhat of a hypocrite when I say this because if I was to use someone else's copyrighted material, I wouldn't want to give them something back for it. I guess this is just how the world goes, right?

Mark Helprin, in his article, "A Great Idea Lives Forever: Shouldn't Its Copyright?," he talks about how someone has a copyright on a product but after 70 years when he dies, it is stripped away from his children and grandchildren. After this time, it is given to the government for debate. Helprin says that the Congress shall have the power "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." I never realized that copyrights on things only had a limited time before it was up and not under copyright anymore. This makes our Congress and government very powerful and makes us question our rights, especially the First Amendment.

This website helps describe all the copyright laws and different examples of copyrighted material. I never knew much about copyright laws, but after I did this weeks reading assignments, I received a better understand of copyright laws and when they are present.


  1. You raise some interesting points about copyright limits, and suggest that by limiting the length of copyright, the government assumes quite a lot of power. But I wonder what benefits you might see in allowing copyrighted material to return to the public domain, that is, for the public to eventually own it so that anyone can benefit from that creation, not just the owner. Should the copyright owner control their product long after they're dead? What if Shakespeare's family still had control over all of his plays and wouldn't let anyone produce them?

  2. Great post. Your example of getting illegal copies of DVDs in the mail reminds me of when I used to walk through Times Square in NYC on the way to work. There were always folding tables on the sidewalk with piles of illegal bootlegged movies for sale. Not to mention the infamous fake sunglasses and handbags for sale. Occasionally the police would make a bust, but typically they turned a blind eye to the illegal sale of counterfeit goods.