Ethics and Copyright: Issues Facing Today's Society
Written by Roderick Hames 2013
Understanding Intellectual and Creative Property Rights
Directions:  Answer each of the questions after reading the article below.  No questions can go unanswered.  Press the button at the bottom when you have finished.

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What are ethics?  Ethics is the question of right verse wrong and then doing what is right.  So how do we know if something is right?  First, ask yourself the question is it legal?  Does what you are about to do violate any laws?  Second, is to ask if it is balanced?  Meaning, is it fair to all the people who are involved?  Finally, ask if it is honorable?  Will your deWhat’s Mine Isn’t (Necessarily) Yourscision give you a sense of pride and honor?

Lets look at real life examples to answer some of these questions about ethics as it relates to copyright.  We are taught from a young age that plagiarism (copying other's work) is wrong.  Stealing someone else's ideas is not honorable, legal or fair.  The same can be said about taking others music.  An artist creates and then shares their work but does not sell you his/her work to do what you want with it.  He or she just simply allows you to listen to it.  One might say, downloading music you have not paid for is like cheating on a test.  The same law that protects your ideas on a test protects a song writer and singer's creativity to produce music.  The reason for copyright law is simply to give the creator control of their work.

However, most people don't associate copying of songs, games, videos, etc. as being wrong.  They think that because it is easy and hard to get caught makes it okay.  The rights of the creator must be protected if we are going to be a society that leads in creative and innovative products and services.

1.  How are plagiarism and copying music or game alike? 
 

Lets see this as a personal issue.  If  you let a person borrow your email password or locker combination and they share some personal information found in your locker or email with others, without your knowledge, you probably would feel violated and very hurt.  Now think of a song writer's feeling when an artist performs their song without permission.  One step further, you copy that MP3 song from a friend and put it on your iPod.  Is it a copyright violation to take an artist's songs and sharing it with your friends for FREE?  Yes, even if you gave it away for free, the law states you are not allowed to share an artist's music without written permission from the recording label and artist.

Did you know that there are federal rules that congress has passed to regulate and penalize those who violate these rules?  Not only could you pay large fines if caught but you could also serve jail time for the violation of copyright laws.  Why all the fuss you might ask? Without such laws others might copy your work and try and make a lot of money off your innovative and creative ideas.  How would you like that?

2.  Which could be your penalty for violating a copyright law?                                                   

3.  Is it a                                                    law that established copyright rules?

Did you know that whenever you create something it automatically and instantaneously becomes protected by federal law.  Works like a drawing, logo, research paper, poem or just about anything you create is protected.  Some things that are not protected are ideas that are not written down or created.  Also, things such as names of people and area codes for a city are not able to be copyright protected.  However, if you were to paint a mural on a school building it would instantly be protected by copyright laws.  The school would own the wall you painted it on but they could not reuse or copy the image in any way without your permission.  It is this federal law that protects you and give us all the incentive to create neat things.  Why do you think we need this protection?  To help answer this question, lets look at what these rights give you.

4.  When does a copyright become active?                                                   

Copyright law gives the person who created the work the following:

By Federal laws, only you can do these things with your work.  Would you want your songs, artwork, stories, games, etc. to be copied and sold to thousands of people without your permission?  

5.  What are two of the rights listed above that copyright law provides a person?
 

Some people either don't know these things or just ignore them altogether.  They copy MP3 files, CDs and/or DVDs and then give out their copy for others to use.  Teams of programmers work for years perfecting a game.  Money lost due to sales not made only increases the cost of those programs to those who purchase them legally.  Song writers, producers, assistants, musicians, sound tech, and many others also spend many years working on songs and then lose millions of dollars every year as their songs are given away freely.

6.  Without copyright law to protect people, would you be likely to share your creative talent with the others?

7.  Who else besides the artist are affected by the illegal sharing of music files or game CD's?
 

There are other crimes with more dangerous consequences.  People who are extremely bright with computers sometimes use their abilities for evil.  They create programs we call viruses and worms to take control of our computers in some way.  Sometimes these programs actually destroy the contents of our computer which rob our time. Time is said to be money. So do you think this is like stealing your money?  Should they do jail time when they steal your time away from you as you have to reinstall software or buy a new computer?

So what do you think? Should it be a crime to search and find passwords or other personal information someone saves online?  What happens when someone steals your identity?  Could it affect your finances?  How?  Could it cost you your job?  Friendship?  A reputation is a hard thing to build.  How would you go about rebuilding a broken reputation stolen by someone online?  Could this happen on social network?  If so, how?

Is it right to buy a game/song then give it to friends so they won't have to pay for it as you did?  Is it right to use your knowledge to create a "virus" software? These are questions faced by many people online today.

8.There are three things someone can steal from you: time, property, and reputation.  Give an example of a way your reputation can be taken from you online.
 

What can you do about all of this?  First, act on what you believe. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"You wouldn't want others to read your private mail so don't read their private mail.  You wouldn't want to work hard at something and then not get paid, so don't steal other's hard work.

9.  If there were no copyright laws, would that limit people's incentive to be creative?    In other words, with no laws to protect a creative person, would you create or invent something and share it knowing that others would copy your work and try and sell for their own profit?

It is a simple question of right and wrong!  Remember that your choices of right and wrong affect more people then just yourself.  It is up to you to use technology in a way that doesn't harm others.

So what is protected by copyright?  Any work that is yours alone and done in a "fixed in a tangible form of expression" (written, recorded, etc) is automatically and instantaneously protected.  Some think that it must state copyright somewhere or have a symbol or even be registered with the government to be protected.  This is not true!  All that you need to do to obtain a copyright is just create it on paper, canvas, CD, etc..  So what is not covered under copyright laws?  Improvised speeches, or performances that are not written down or recorded.  These form of art are not copy protected.  Other things such as commonly available information that contains no originality are not protected.  These include standard rules, calendars, public documents or works done by the US government.

10.  What action must a person take to obtain a copyright for their work?
 

 If you purchased a radio, clothes or just about any other thing at a store, you own that property. However with software, video, or music it is not that simple.  Songs, video and software is entirely different.  Songs and software is more than just a shiny CD.  It is a person's or most likely a team of people's ideas put together for our enjoyment.  It is their creative thoughts put down in a complex computer language, sounds, and/or images.  In fact you probably have never read all that fine print that comes with the CD or DVD.  This fine print is the license agreement that controls your use of the software, video, or music and once you open and use the software you are agreeing to the license agreement.

11. If a creative work doesn't have a copyright notice it is not copyrighted?

In reality all you really own when you purchase software is the plastic seal wrap, box, manual (if it comes with one), and CD.  However you do not own the creators work sealed on the CD or DVD.  You are only being given a license to listen or play the software, music, video, or game.  The creator owns or retains the copyright to the creative materials that you are listening, viewing, or playing.  The © (copyright) symbol simply reminds us of these inherent rights given to artists, creators and inventors.

12.  You "own" the software/copyright that you buy? Explain Why?

Just because you paid $19.99 at the store does not give you rights to do anything with the software, video or music you want.  It is sort of like purchasing a book at a book store.  The paper that you purchased is all yours to write on and highlight.  However when you copy what the author said in your own school paper without sighting the work first then you have violated the copyright© laws binding an author's thoughts and ideas.  You could face criminal charges or perhaps more likely a failing grade on your paper for plagiarizing (stealing) from another author.  Many students think that taking ideas straight from an encyclopedia is okay.  Little do they realize this is stealing and can be dealt with very seriously.

13. Based on the following paragraph, if you own a book that someone else wrote, you now own the copyright to it.

Software copyright© is very similar to book copyright©.  The collection of a person's music, video or computer game is protected from someone reselling or making copies.  The fines for selling software is worse than a failing grade in school.  You could be imprisoned, fined up to $10,000 in criminal charges, and up to $50,000 in civil penalties for each copy you give away or sell.

There is an exception for making copies.  You are allowed to make copies for backup purposes.  This is referred to as a fair use provision.  The provision however states that the backup copy is for your personal use only.  That copy may not be given to a friend or someone else.  The fair use policy also gives the right to students and teachers to use copyrighted materials for educational purposes without asking the author.  They may copy a small amount of work (being sure to give credit to the author) for reports or lessons.  It is the word FAIR that is very important. To sell, change, or use a large portion of copyrighted materials in your report would not be covered by this "fair" use provision.

14. Educators and students can copy a fair amount of copyrighted material without permission of the author.

So how long does copyright protection last?  It begins immediately when the work is created and continues 70 years after the death of the author or artist.  This is why you can copy artist like Leonardo da Vinci and writers like Shakespeare and music writers like Mozart all you want.

Common Myths:

15.  It is okay to share (copy) a song file you purchased with others as long as you don't charge a fee.


Home Viruses Computers The Internet Ethics Pt.1 Ethics Pt.2 How Computers Work History Pt.1 History Pt2 Online Copyright Quiz

From the perspecitve of a writer, watch this video: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/nicoles-story-copyrighting-creative-work

Online Copyright Quiz

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for the primary purpose of teaching and demonstrating computer & business skills..
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updated 11.05.13

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