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Piracy Solutions:
Copyright Laws Are the Answer
Amanda Moore
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Computer users recognize the piracy-linked programs "Napster" and "Kazaa." People across America illegally download music, movies, and television shows free of cost. Consequently, the entertainment industry is suffering. This downloading and rebroadcasting of material needs to be stopped; it is unethical and unlawful. Mike Godwin's article "Hollywood vs. the Internet" discusses this issue. The Content Faction, a group of copyright owners, has devised a plan that includes inserting a watermark into digital television signals to prevent people from copying episodes. The Content Faction's watermark idea would be extremely inconvenient to accomplish due to the time and money it would take to put the plan into effect. Additionally, it would limit the abilities of electronic devices. The real solution to the piracy problem is to educate people about the copyright laws, enforce the laws, and develop better ways to incriminate copyright abusers.

One reason that the watermark plan is inconvenient is the extensive time it would take to put the plan into action. Godwin expresses, "The Content Faction has set out to restructure the digital world. It wants to change not just the Internet but every computer and digital tool, online or off, that might be used to make unauthorized copies" (175). These devices include computers, VCRs, TVs, and DVD and CD players. Restructuring every digital device would take at least ten to fifteen years. Households today contain old electronic devices. Most Americans cannot afford to purchase all new electronics immediately; therefore, this would be a gradual process that would not be completed until every household owns watermark-reading electronics.

Another inconvenient aspect of the watermark proposal is the considerable amount of money it would take to put the plan into effect. New research, designs, and electronic components would generate a high production cost. Due to this high production cost, the Tech Faction, which consists of computer and digital technology companies such as Microsoft, opposes the watermark plan. Confirming this, Emery Simon of the Business Software Alliance boldly expresses, "We think mandating these protections is an abysmally stupid idea" (qtd. in Godwin 175). The watermark plan would be expensive not only to the producer but also to the consumer. Extra money would be put into designing new machines. Also, the new parts that create the watermark would cost more money. The production price would increase; thus, the selling price would increase. The watermark plan would be costly for everyone.

One more problematic component of the plan is that the watermark structure would limit the ability of electronics. The old electronics would not be able to read new CDs, DVDs, movies, or TV shows. The new electronics would not be able to read old ones. "New home entertainment systems probably would have to be designed not to play unwatermarked content… They won't work with old digital videos or MP3's" (Godwin 174). This would create a huge problem. Everyone wants to continue to be able to play old CDs and DVDs. Many families have keepsake homemade videos on VHS in which they would like to be able to playback in the future. In addition, future watermarked computers may not have all the media features that today's computers hold. Godwin makes a good point when he says, "Why trade in last year's feature-rich laptop for a new one that, while faster, has fewer capabilities?" (178). The Tech Faction believes "people should be able to do whatever they want with their digital tools" (Godwin 178). Computer users should be allowed to use their machines as they wish as long as they are not breaking any laws. Electronics have multiple abilities that would be restricted by the watermark plan.

Instead of spending time and money on changing all of the world's digital technology, the solution to the piracy problem lies in the copyright laws that are already in place. The U.S. Copyright Act is one of these laws. It was ratified to "protect the writings of authors" (Martin 1). The interpretation of the word "writings" has expanded along with the expansion of modern technology. Software, music, movies, and more are now protected under the Copyright Act (Martin 1). In his article "The War over Internet Piracy," Peter Galuszka mentions another copyright law, the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Under this act, Internet service providers must take disciplinary action against copyright offenders in order to protect their liabilities (25). These laws should be publicized and enforced; additionally, law enforcement should formulate a better approach to catching copyright criminals.

First, the public needs to be better educated about these laws. This can be done in several ways. Universities can educate their students about copyright laws. Sameer Hinduja states, "If acceptable and unacceptable computing behavior is plainly spelled out by university administration through the use of ethical codes substantively similar to laws and legal sanctions, the incidence of piracy among students may be reduced" (58). If people understand that piracy is illegal, they will be less likely to participate in it. Anit-piracy paraphernalia would make people aware of the seriousness of piracy. An anti-piracy advertising campaign needs to be launched. Signs, posters, and commercials should be broadcasted to inform people of copyright laws (Hinduja 59). Hinduja discusses newspapers, another way in which the public is educated: "Publication of national articles about computer criminal arrests… might also generate a deeper awareness of the seriousness of the issue at hand" (59). If people hear about other people being punished for piracy, they would be less likely to download illegal programs. Education about copyright laws plays a key role in stopping piracy.

Enforcing the copyright laws is the most vital step in the fight to stop piracy. "Deviance may be reduced in severity and frequency, then, with the use of laws, legal sanctions, or threats of sanction" (Hinduja 58). Just the threat of being arrested will stop people from committing piracy crimes. On the other hand, if the laws are not being enforced, people will not be afraid of being caught; thus, they will download without hesitation. Fearing lawsuits, universities are starting to implement piracy rules. Harvard is taking away their students' Internet access if they are caught downloading illegal information (Galuszka 25). The laws need to be enforced on both sides of piracy: the provider side and the consumer side. The program Napster was a piracy provider who faced law suites that eventually caused the company to break up (Galuszka 27). Every Napster-like program should be shut down if they are breaking the copyright laws. On the consumer side, an offender could be charged with a fee of $150,000 for each song he/she has shared illegally (Galuszka 25). Law enforcement needs to crack down harder on piracy criminals. If copyright laws are being enforced, people will be less likely to break them.

In order to make the laws effective, tactics for catching criminals need to be improved. Law enforcement needs to collaborate with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order to catch pirating criminals. Better communication between these two parties would help assist in incriminating downloaders. The ISPs need to use their technology to track illegal downloaders. When they locate illegal activity, they need to contact law enforcement so the criminal can be penalized. Also, Universities could play a key role in developing a law enforcing system. A majority of piracy is done by college students on high-speed computer links at universities (Galuszka 24). It would be easy to catch illegal downloaders on these huge networks. "At the University of Florida, two graduate students invented ICARUS, or Integrated Computer Application for Recognizing User Service, which pinpoints pirates on the system and then blocks their access" (Galuszka 25). Universities could assist law enforcement greatly if piracy could be terminated on college campuses. Overall, better strategies for incriminating copyright abusers need to be developed.

Future programs similar to Kazaa and Napster could cause various problems with the entertainment industry; however, the watermark plan is not the answer to these problems. The plan would require too much time and resources, and it would hamper electronic capabilities. Instead, the strategy to stopping piracy should be focused on the laws in place. The public needs to be educated about the laws. The laws need to be enforced. Furthermore, a more efficient way of catching copyright criminals needs to be developed. The road ahead for the war against piracy is long; however, if the copyright laws are enforced well, piracy will eventually be put to an end.

Works Cited

Galuszka, Peter. "The War over Internet Piracy." Black Issues in Higher Education 21.2 (2004): 24-27.

Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations: An Anthology for Reading, Writing, and Research. Ed. Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils, Constance Squires. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 2003.

Hinduja, Sameer. "Trends and Patterns Among Online Software Pirates." Ethics and Information Technology 5 (2003): 49-61.

Martin, Peter W. "Copyright: an Overview." Legal Information Institute. 1998. Cornell University. 10 September 2004. .

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