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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

When can you backup legally?

Making multiple copies of the software - Copyright law in the United States and most other countries including Canada and the UK allows for a single 'archival' copy of any given commercial software to be made, for use only if the original fails. The wording may actually allow for two copies, but one of these is considered to be the 'copy' that is installed to the hard drive in order to use the program. Making any additional copies for personal use is a violation.

Defeating copy protection in order to make a backup copy - Now this is a loaded issue. With the 1998 approval of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the U.S., it is illegal to change or remove any form of digital watermark or protection created by the makers of commercial software. This also makes the creation or use of software intended to bypass methods of copy protection unlawful. As much modern software (especially games) includes methods of copy protection designed to prevent duplication, this suddenly makes even legitimate software backups potentially illegal.

Backing up your software legally

This step cannot be stressed enough. Since software is governed not only by copyright law but also by the contract that you agree to when you accept the EULA, make sure you know what is there. Too many people simply accept the EULA without reading it, even in business environments, opening themselves up to legal problems.

STEP 2: Making an archival copy

Unless it is specifically prohibited by the EULA (very unlikely) you may make a single backup copy of any software you have purchased. This backup is for archival purposes, and may only be used if your original purchased copy is no longer functional, as CDs still suffer badly when scratched. For the same reason, this backup must be destroyed if you transfer the original software to another owner. If you are unable to successfully create a working backup copy of your software due to copy protection measures, see step 3.

STEP 3: What if you can't make a working copy?

If you are unable to make a useable copy of your software, chances are it is secured by some form of copy protection. In the United States, this falls under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which among other things makes it illegal to attempt to bypass or defeat copy protection that has been instituted by the copyright holder. At the time of writing, no legal recourse exists for making archival copies of your software. Efforts to change this portion of the DMCA are already underway from various lobby groups.

STEP 4: Other measures

Commercial software generally includes a warranty, the same as any other product. Though the terms will vary depending on the package, these generally provide for replacement of the software media (CD) and/or a refund from the point of purchase, providing all original packaging is returned. Of course, warranties are never easy to claim... If you are concerned about not being able to backup your expensive software, contacting the publisher is really your only current recourse other than violating copyright.

Freeware and Shareware software is still governed by copyright, though special permissions given by the authors of the software may affect this. For example, shareware is still commercial software and is governed by all the rules of copyright that are applicable to commercial software; however, the EULA of a shareware program will generally state that the user is free to use and distribute the unlicensed version of the software in question for a certain period, after which he or she must purchase it to go on using it legally, and it becomes identical to any other purchased software.

Freeware programs may be shared publicly, but may or may not allow the user to alter the original source code, and if they do not, then this is subject to copyright. Use common sense and READ THE EULA.

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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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