Canada’s copyright law is one of our hardest laws to enforce. The reason
the police have so much trouble enforcing this law, is due to technology. This
law is very easy to break, and once broken, it is very hard to track down
violators. So although some form of a copyright law is needed, the one we have
has, too many holes to be effective. There are three main ways in which the
copyright law is broken in everyday life. They is audio/video tape copying,
plagiarism, and software piracy.
The first, and most commonly violated aspect of the copyright law, is
the copying of audio tapes for oneself and friends. Thanks to the invention of
dual cassette stereos, this has become very easy. You simply take an original
or even another copy of a tape, as well as a blank tape. Stick them both in to
the stereo and bingo you have a new tape. You also just broke the law.
Along with copying audio tapes, now we can copy video tapes almost as
easily. If you hook two VCR’s together, they can copy from one to the other.
You could rent a movie form the video store, copy and return it, with no one the
The problem with copying video and audio tapes is that for every copy
you make the recording artist, the actors, producers and everyone else who
collect royalties from the tapes lose money. If the companies start to lose
money, they raise prices. Thus a vicious circle begins. As prices go up, fewer
people buy original copies. If less people buy the original cassettes prices
will once again rise.
Another major form of piracy is plagiarism. The stealing of someone
elses ideas or work. The biggest category of people who fall into here are
students. Very often a student when doing a research paper will “accidently”
forget to footnote his work. By “forgetting” to give the author credit, the
student has claimed the work as his own. Another reason students may copy
someone else’s work is to sound more sophisticated hoping that if they use
someone elses words it will sound better than their own. Generally, this
provides an easy way for a teacher or the police to catch them.
Teachers also plagiarize rather frequently. Very often a teacher will
photocopy several pages from a book, in order to save the students the expense
of having to buy the book for themselves. While this is a noble act by the
teacher, in most cases, this is illegal. Unless the author of the book, gave
consent for his/her work to be freely distributed, teachers can’t copy it any
more than students or anyone else can.
The third category of piracy is Software Pirating. There are several
forms which this can take. The most common form is very similar to audio/video
cassettes. It is when someone copies a game or program from his/her computer to
someone elses. As long as the two people have the same type of computer, (they
both have apples or IBM’s) this is a very simple process, so long as the
programmer didn’t put a bug into the program (a precaution they take against
people copying their work).
Another form of Computer Piracy is a “cracker”. A cracker is someone who
has an in-depth knowledge of computers and programming. He can then remove the
“bug” that prevents programs from being copied. After he removes the bug he’s
able to distribute the software at his own discretion. This is in direct
conflict with the copyright law, because the program was not meant to be copied
thus the bug. It therefore becomes illegal to remove the bug.
Like audio/video cassettes copying, computer games causes people to lose
money. In this case, instead of it being the singer, or actors, it is the
programmer, and the software companies who lose. This leads to the same vicious
circle. More copies make higher prices etc..
The copyright law is hard to enforce likewise so are the penalties. If
you are found in violation of breaking the copyright laws, you probably will
only have to pay a fine. However, the fines can be quite substantial and
depending where you are in the distribution chain (how many copies were made
before yours) the fine varies, with whoever copied the original paying the most.
In extreme cases, where a contract is enacted upon the purchase of the original
copy like with Word Perfect, a computer word processor. Upon buying an original
set off disks you must sign a contract promising not to distribute the program.
In these cases, you could face imprisonment because now not only are you dealing
with breach of the copyright law, but with a breach of contract as well. So the
moral of the story is enjoy your large collection of audio/video tapes. Get
those good marks on essays you didn’t even write. Enjoy those really fun
computer games, because under Canada’s current copyright law and the amount of
attention the police pay to this problem, it is very unlikely that you will ever