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Beginners Guides: Legally Copying Software and Music
Beginners Guides: Legally Copying Software and Music - PCSTATS
This article is a guideline on what you can and cannot do with your digital media under copyright. We wanted to dig a little deeper and clear up the somewhat grey area on backing up software and music.
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCSTATS Oct 30 2003   M. Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > PCSTATS

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

We will discuss the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) briefly first as it relates to every other topic in this article, at least where readers in the United States are concerned. The DMCA, instituted in 1998, was designed to update American copyright laws to deal with the new issues posed by the Internet and the proliferation of the home computer. While it covers many areas, the most important in terms of this article are its effects on the rights of American consumers to privately duplicate digital media.

The DMCA currently considers the bypassing of a copy-protection scheme put in place by a copyright owner to be a violation of copyright, even if the person doing the bypassing purchased the copy-protected material legitimately. To put it simply, you cannot legally duplicate copy-protected material, even if you own it.

This section of the DMCA (chapter 12) has been massively controversial, since not only can it remove the right of consumers to duplicate their purchases, it also makes any tools that can be used to duplicate a copy protected product in violation of the copyright of that product, and thus the makers of these tools become vulnerable to civil law suits. As this article was written, activists are continuing to lobby the United States Library of Congress to change the DMCA and allow personal duplication of copy-protected material.

The DMCA is based on principles established in a pair of treaties by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The two treaties, WCT (WIPO copyright treaty) and WPPT (WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty) have been signed by more than 30 countries, including Canada, though few besides the US have yet implemented laws based on it. A summary of the DMCA can be found here in PDF form.

Software and piracy

Unlike other forms of media, software is generally legally covered by two separate sets of rules. The copyright laws of the country apply as they would to any other media, with some specific provisions that apply to software alone (see below for more detail). In addition, most commercial software comes with an EULA or End User License Agreement which must be agreed to before the software can be installed. These are created by the company that created the software, and are unique to each product. The copyright laws apply automatically to the software once created, while the EULA is effectively a contract between the creator of the software (the copyright holder) and the purchaser, and comes into effect as soon as the purchaser agrees to its terms.

Commercial software is licensed, not sold. What this means is that by purchasing the software, you are buying permission to use that software subject to copyright laws and the EULA. You do not own the actual program itself; similar to how purchasing music gives you permission to play that music, but not ownership of it. You own the CD it comes on, not the contents.

The purpose of the software provisions to copyright laws, as well as EULAs is to discourage software piracy. What may not be widely known is what actually constitutes piracy. Obviously, if you have knowingly received an illegitimate copy of a commercial program, this is piracy. There are many other, often common acts that can constitute a violation of copyright, or the license agreement of an individual software program. Some examples include:

Installing software on multiple computers - The EULAs of most software packages, Windows XP being a good example of this, forbid more than one instance of the installed product to exist, meaning you cannot legally install the software on more than one of your home computers without an additional license for each system. Some packages are even more restrictive. With OEM versions of the Windows operating system (minimally packaged and sold in bulk to computer manufacturers), a purchased license is valid only for the specific system on which Windows is first installed. It may not be installed on another computer without violating the agreement.

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Contents of Article: PCSTATS
 Pg 1.  Beginners Guides: Legally Copying Software and Music
 Pg 2.  — The Digital Millennium Copyright Act
 Pg 3.  When can you backup legally?
 Pg 4.  Music, MP3s, and Backing up your CDs
 Pg 5.  Movies and DVDs

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