星期日, 8月 08, 2010

Impact of Multimedia and Information Technology on Copyright and Intellectual Property…and of Copyright and Intellectual Property on Multimedia and Information Technology.

Activities:

1.    As a student of multimedia or information technology you will need to be exposed to a wide range of software applications. From your understanding, how easy do you think it is to obtain “cracked” (pirated) versions of various applications, and how widely are such versions used by students? Do you think there are any underlying patterns in what type of software applications may be most often pirated? What are some of the factors that you think may contribute to this pattern (if any) being likely?


Note
First off, remember that piracy is illegal…under all conditions.

There are several underlying factors that may contribute to the existence and usage of pirated software. Some of these include:
-      an element of lacking in standardised uniform international laws and/or motivation to police and enforce cooperation across boarders
-      a high financial cost in obtaining at least some software products
-      a lack of financial funds for at least some users of software
-      an ease in producing duplicate copies of software applications
-      an ease in distributing duplicated copies of software applications (either with or without money changing hands)…be it on-line or via hard materials such as CDs
-      an absence of appropriate morals and ethics within both the provider and user of duplicated software applications
-      a perception of unlikelihood in detection and prosecution within both the provider and user of duplicated software applications.

Other factors may also contribute to “promote” such activities, such as a culture akin to vandalism and graffiti whereby damage is intentionally done in order to actively undermine a political or business system.

Unlawful copies of software appear to be available via the internet. Indeed, unrequested emails (SPAM) are common enough advertising “Cheap Software”. At least some of these are attempting to sell pirated software….and at least some of these will not be providing any material at all…simply taking money from anyone who responds.

There are also networks of users who make available duplicated software through their on-line contacts both as a broad offer via bulletin boards or “privately” through peer-to-peer contacts. Such personal contacts also occur at a hard material level where materials are provided via a CD or thumb drive.

At an international level there are some countries where pirated materials are openly sold through street vendors. While such vendors may pack their materials and flee from an approaching policeperson, it is clear that the general culture in some countries is one of acceptance, or at least, tolerance.

In general, the more expensive an application, the more likely it is to have a demand for pirated copies. Similarly, the less likely the software is to be used “in-the-long-term”, the more likely it is to have a demand for pirated copies.

While pirated materials exist for virtually all types of software applications including operating systems, programming languages, word processing applications, databases, image manipulation applications, and multimedia authoring packages, it seems likely piracy is more widely used (as a percentage of installations) for Multimedia type applications rather than Information Technology applications due to the relatively high cost associated with acquiring not just a single language…but an entire suite of separate applications dedicated to handling images, audio, video, authoring…and so on.

You should note that all software that is required for you to undertake your studies is provided on computers within the institution that you are associated with. If you choose to acquire and install any of such software on a personal computer to enable you to undertake activites at home then you are required to do so in a lawful manner.

Options open to you for acquiring lawful installations of software include the purchase of a full Commercial version, an Educational version, a Student version or a Trial version of any given application. Note, however, that not all applications will have all of these modes of versions available.



2.    What do you think may be some of the main reasons and main rationalisations (reasons given to “justify” actions) held by students using pirated software applications?


Note
There may be many different reasons provided, but some of the more common ones are likely to include:
-      I am not hurting anyone, and the company is big enough and wealthy enough to not need my money
-      I cannot afford a copy, so I cannot purchase a copy. At least this way I am learning their software
-      I am only a student, so I am not using this software for any “commercial” activities, just using it to learn the application
-      I only need this for one unit, it is not worth my while to purchase a copy because I won’t ever use it again.

Remember, however, that whatever the reasons offered, pirated materials are illegal.



  1. To what extent do you think that students who use pirated software applications will become industry professionals who use pirated software? Explain the reasons for your answer.


Note
One of the arguments associated with the above question (Question 2) is that pirated software is sometimes acquired to learn an application, but that it is not intended for commercial activities. Indeed, the argument may run that once studies are complete, if the student was to pursue commercial activities (such as the development of web sites) then legal copies of the various software applications would be obtained.

Once pirated software applications are loaded to a computer, however, there may likely be an opportunity to later use this in the design and development of a commercial venture…and so the temptation is there….and after all…..if one is only doing a job for a friend….and it is not worth much money….and etc, etc….then it is plausible to think that illegal copies of software are likely to be used in commercial settings.

The plot here thickens. If a student has obtained legal Educational or Student versions of software applications….then they may not be used in later commercial activities!

Remember, to undertake commercial activities then commercial licenses are required for all software applications used in the project.

Companies have set up costs. Part of the set-up cost for a computer orientated company is the software required.



  1. What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages for Educational, Student and Demonstration versions of software applications? Do you think that these advantages are realised?


Note
Educational, Student and Demonstration versions range in how they are modified from full commercial versions. There is usually a pop-up warning regarding the specific license agreement, there may or may not be an associated watermark presented on screen output and there may or may not be limitations placed upon the capabilities of the software (such as effectively limiting file size).

For each of these versions access is given to the environment to learn the interface, capabilities, and work processes. Even the demonstration versions provide sufficient scope to establish a level of knowledge and expertise in the application to enable sensible appraisal of the application for both “academic” reasons and with respect to determining the worthiness of purchasing a commercial license.

Demonstration versions typically have a window of time associated from installation, so that an effective sunset clause causes the software to cease its operation after a set period (such as one month or 90 days). There may or may not be limitations placed upon functionality.

Student versions typically are fully operational but may only be used in undertaking studies and producing assessment tasks.

Educational versions typically are fully operational but may only be used in undertaking educational tasks…including the production of materials for teaching and learning purposes.




5.    Conduct a search for information regarding the production and sale of pirated music CDs, movie DVD’s and computer applications in various parts of the world. Which countries seem to have a poor track record? Who are the customers for these markets? To what extent do authorities in these countries appear to be pursuing and acting upon piracy?
 

Note
Some countries in Asia and South East Asia (elsewhere too I am sure) have a history of producing and openly selling pirated materials. Music CDs, movie DVDs and computer software applications are all (relatively) openly sold by street vendors in parts of Indonesia, Thailand, China and India (for example).

This is not a new culture. Pirated copies of items such as shirts and watches have a long history of such production and marketing, where the “trademark” is seen as the key to sales.

Globalisation is increasing the level of international agreements in the issues of intellectual property, especially with respect to expensive items such as software, but it will take longer for aspects of culture and black market trade to be effected.

Periodically there may be a “show-of-force” whereby a police swoop on well known street vendor areas is made, pirated materials confiscated and later publicly destroyed, but the activities continue (though perhaps with less openness and less vigor).

While local consumption undoubtedly accounts for some of this trade, so too does the tourist market. Tourists from western countries which have more restrictive and punitive laws for breech of Copyright and Intellectual Property may see the cheap music, movies and software as “good buys”. It should be noted, however, that it is illegal for tourists to import their pirated materials back home into western countries.



6.    A close friend provides you with a large number of LP (Long Play) records and asks you to make a CD with MP3 files of specific tracks (you have all the necessary hardware and software). What are your likely actions? Why?
 

Note
First off…let me explain LP records, because some of you may not know the term.

Long Play (LP) records are vinyl discs of about 30 cm diameter. They were the main means of distributing music through the 1960’s and 1970’s. All technology can become dated and this is what happened with vinyl records (and same too with audio cassette tapes). Records are fragile, easily scratched and wear out with use. They are based around analogue data (the groove in the record makes a fine needle vibrate…and this is what produces the sound that is then amplified).

Digital recordings have made vinyl records effectively obsolete…but they do still exist and do still work.

When someone with a collection of vinyl records decides to digitize them, to enable the music contained therein to be played say, on an MP3 player, they are seeking the format of the copyrighted materials which they own, to be modified to enable play via a newer technology.

As I understand things, it is now legal (in Australia) to modify the format of such copyrighted materials, and so, provided that ownership of the record collection is maintained, then such format shifting is allowed. Note that laws in this area only changed recently (2007 I think)…and may be subject to further changes. Note too that the laws are country specific.

In general, I would anticipate that most people, with suitable materials, would have no problem in producing the CD as requested.


7.    A close friend provides you with a large number of music CDs and asks you to make a CD with MP3 files of specific tracks. You note that many of the CD covers carry names of ownership other than your friends’ name. What are your likely actions? Why?
 

Note
There are two separate issues here.

The first is format shifting. As with the LP records, the request is to modify the nature of the materials from one format of copyrighted materials (here music CD format) to MP3 format.

As I understand things, it is now legal (in Australia) to perform such format shifting, and so, in general, I anticipate most people with the technical capabilities, would be happy to perform this task for a friend.

The second issue, however, muddies the water. The music CDs contain a range of names on them….so this raises the question of ownership of the CDs. If the CDs have been purchased by your friend (second hand) then he or she now owns the CDs and the process, as I understand things, is legal.

However, if the CDs have been borrowed, with the intent of not just format shifting, but duplicating, the materials, then this will constitute a breech of copyright and so the activity requested is illegal.

It is important to note that format shifting is not to enable the music to be played in multiple ways at the same time…but rather that it can be played in different ways but only one way at a time.

You may or may not choose to undertake the request from your friend, but if the CDs were on loan for the purpose of duplication, then if you undertake the task you will be breaking copyright laws and liable to prosecution.




8.    You have recently been appointed as Project Manager for the design and development of a multimedia product. During production you accidentally stumble across the fact that several computers are using unlicensed software. What are your likely actions? Why?
 

Note
As Project Manager you are going to hold a level of responsibility to ensure that the company is acting in accordance with the law regarding use of licensed software.

What you choose to do is your choice, but be warned, that should this situation come to the attention of authorities then you are going to be called to account.

The fact that you have become aware of an illegal practice within the project that you are managing means that you are obliged to act to rectify the situation. Note too that this should go beyond the simple purchase of additional licenses…it should include a change in work practices to ensure that such a situation can not occur again in the future within the company.

If the people in power above you in the company are unwilling to purchase the additional licenses then you are going to be placed in a dilemma.

Should you force the situation, by informing legal authorities and be willing to bear witness against the company for whom you work (and fear retribution within the company such as loosing your employment), or do you choose to ignore the illegal practices that you have discovered and discussed with managers above you (and hope to be rewarded within the company via promotion or bonus pay)?




9.    You have recently been appointed as Project Manager for the design and development of a multimedia product. You have been given a large range of electronic resources that include music, photographs, video, and text. You are unsure of the details of where each of these resources has come from. What are your likely actions? Why?
 

Note
Similarly to the scenario presented above in Question 8, as Project Manager you have a relatively high level of responsibility to ensure that all work practices are in accordance with the law.

Regardless of how ideal the music, photographs, video and text within the context of the current multimedia product, unless you can demonstrate that the company holds copyright (or has negotiated use of the resources with the owner of the copyright) then such materials must not be used.

The company may well need to embark on the design and development of its own (substitution) resources of music, photographs, video and text for the project, thus ensuring that it holds copyright for all materials used.



10. You have recently completed a small project designing and developing a game for teaching reading and spelling skills to Primary School children. You have been told that the game is loaded on several computers at the local Primary School which your child attends, but you know factually that the school only purchased a single license. What are your likely actions? Why?
 

Note
Here is the rub!

This is your multimedia project that you designed and developed. If there are duplicated copies on multiple machines based around a single legal copy then it is your financial loss of income!

What your actions are going to be may be dependant upon a range of issues. For example. Do you have a good relationship with the principal and believe you can raise this in a “friendly but firm” manner to resolve the allegation…which after all may be factually incorrect?

Do you fear that suing the school may result in a breakdown of relations with the school administration and your child may end up leaving the school? If your child loves the school this may effect your decision making process.

Regardless of your actions, your personal feelings, perceptions and experience of being on the receiving end of piracy may well make you appreciate what is involved in the context of intellectual property and copyright in the context of multimedia and information technology.

Remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!



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