Intellectual Property in CIT, Computer Information Technologies
Intellectual property in the information technology field is a subject in constant debate. Intellectual property as it relates to the IT field is defined by A Dictionary of Computing at Oxford Reference as, “A term that is increasingly difficult to define. It combines the traditional core of rights covered by patent, trademark, and copyright law coupled with more recent additions such as the protection of registered designs, design right, plant-breeders’ rights, semiconductor topography rights, performing rights, and lending rights. A working definition is that it is the species of legally enforceable right associated with intangible aspects of physical items (About John Daintith and Wright).”
Some of the issues facing technology today are piracy, copyright infringement, and the trade of intellectual property for profit. Piracy is probably the most prevalent in our society today. With the advent of MP3 technology and iPods, file sharing is at an all time high. The copyright infringement discussion can be directly associated with the discussion of the “Grey Album” by DJ Dangermouse discussion. In the March 23rd, 2004 broadcast of Talk of the Nation, Lynn Neary explains DJ Dangermouse’s work, “he held The Beatles’ “White Album” and in the other, Jay-Z’s “Black Album.” Dangermouse, aka Brian Burton, knew he held gold. He blended tracks of The Beatles’ music with Jay-Z’s rap to create his own “Grey Album.” For two and a half weeks, he labored at his computer for just the right sound (Neary).” The trade of intellectual property is discussed in the New York Times Article “Gaming the Online Games; A new breed of entrepreneur is collecting virtual booty and selling it for hard cash. Is that fair play?” Mark Russell discusses how K., a gamer, makes a living playing video games. Russell explains, “(A)t 27, he says he couldn’t find a normal career out of university, so he turned to this gray-market profession, earning some $4,000 a month winning and selling virtual booty to other players (Russell).” These are just three of the issues facing the information technology field today.
Intellectual property can be compromised over the World Wide Web in many different ways. The most common of these is the wide spread act of piracy over the internet. Not only is it very easy to come across pirated copyrighted material online, it is even easier to obtain it and distribute it as well. A simple Google search can allow a user to obtain millions of links to websites hosting pirated material. A common term used over the internet for pirated content is “warez”. Once warez was typed into the Google search engine, Google displayed over 65,800,000 links to websites hosting pirated material.
The three major industries that are affected by online piracy the most are the motion picture industry, the software industry, and the music industry. Piracy has been an issue ever since the internet was created, but piracy didn’t quite find its place in the spotlight until it became a huge issue with the music industry. Theft of copyrighted music is the most common and most frequently performed act of piracy by simple, everyday people. Whether a person makes a copy of an album from a friend using a CD burner or downloads MP3 music files over Limewire, that person is performing an act of piracy. According to the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), an annual industry loss of 12.5 billion dollars a year is caused by piracy, along with over 70,000 jobs lost as well.
The motion picture industry also takes a huge hit from piracy due to the distribution and illegal copying of movies and DVDs. The days of copying a VHS tape using a dual-head VCR has escalated to millions of digitally distributed video files containing full motion pictures spreading around the internet today. Motion pictures are pirated by videotaping screenings at the local movie theater or converting a DVD video disc into a file that can be viewed by various media players. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the movie industry generally looses around 2.3 billion dollars a year due to piracy.
The software industry also suffers due to internet piracy. Any computer-savvy individual can hack computer software and video games to be easily distributed and used by anyone over the internet. Video games are the most commonly pirated type of software due to the ease of hacking the source code and the usual high prices. Gaming software can be pirated by creating illegal copies of software CDs (generally called “images”) that can be played on video game consoles that are modified using mod chips. Mod chips are computer chips that can be soldered onto the console’s motherboard that bypasses the console’s security functions. The PC game industry is hurt by piracy the most, due to how easy the software can be hacked and played without any system modifications or physical media needed.
Software can also be compromised over the internet by the use of reverse engineering. Reverse engineering is the act of tampering with a program’s source code to make changes in its functionality. The most common found use of reverse engineering is the act of cracking. Software cracking is a means of editing program code to bypass anti-piracy techniques used by the software developers. For example, a PC game that requires the original purchased CD to be inserted into the computer in order to play can easily be remedied by a “no CD crack” that removes the disc-check process upon boot up. These cracks allow anybody to distribute the software files to anyone and can be used without purchasing the actual software.
Bit torrents are one of the biggest methods of obtaining copyrighted material and the software used in hacking computer programs. Bit torrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used to transfer large amounts of data over a direct connection using bit torrent software. The ability to transfer large amounts of data is perfect for distributing large amounts of copyrighted material and computer software that is large in size. The cable company Comcast has recently fought bit torrent piracy by blocking bit torrent seeds from internet users subscribed to their cable internet services. The FCC has recently ordered Comcast to stop blocking bit torrents due to the unfair interruption of bit torrents that are used for legitimate, non-piracy issues.
Plagiarism is another serious issue that has escalated due to the widespread use of the internet. Plagiarism, according to plagiarism.org, is defined as “to commit literacy theft; to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.” The act of plagiarism has become a big issue with schools and school students copying written materials off of the internet and claiming them as their own work. Plagiarism can even be unintentional by not properly using citations in one’s written material. Plagiarism.org reports that 84% of college students have admitted to cheating on written papers and 85% of college students believe that cheating is needed in order to succeed in college. The majority of college campuses have been cracking down on plagiarism and each college generally has their own policies on this matter that can be found on their websites.
Millions of people use the internet to try to make a profit these days; some of these profit attempts are positive and some are negative. Cybersquatting is another offense to intellectual property that has a sole purpose of profiting off of a name. Cybersquatting.com defines cybersquatting as “bad faith registration of a domain name containing another person’s brand or trademark in a domain name.” Let’s say an internet user wants to shop online at Best Buy’s website. If the user misspells the company name in the domain, like bestby.com for example, a website will normally appear that uses the Best Buy name to lure unsuspecting internet users onto their own website to gain ad revenue.
Even though the theft of intellectual property continues to hurt many industries, it doesn’t mean that piracy always results in negative outcomes. Microsoft executes have admitted that piracy has benefited the company. Microsoft business division president Jeff Raikes went on record saying “Our number one goal is that we want people to use our product. If they’re going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us.” Some company representatives believe that users who become familiar with their products through piracy are more likely to purchase future versions of that product and gain company loyalty.
Popular recording artist Joss Stone has stated that piracy is “brilliant” and also stated “The only part about music that I dislike is the business that is attached to it. Now, if music is free, then there is no business, there is just music. So, I like it, I think that we should share.” Many recording artists gain fans through the distribution of their music online and can actually equal to more record sales of future albums. Aspiring musicians also benefit from online music distribution by allowing their music to reach broader audiences and achieving fame. The popular band Pennywise recently released their new album Reason to Believe for free over Myspace in order to attract new fans that could potentially purchase more Pennywise albums.
Intellectual property is a wide, vast, and unclear discussion. Intellectual property is the product of the intellect that has commercial value, including copyrighted property such as literary or artistic works, and idea-tional property, such as patents, appellations of origin, business methods, and industrial processes. To keep the integrity of information, we need to find ways to keep intellectual property defined. As technology evolves at its breakneck pace, so must the laws that keep the rights of the creators, programmers, and developers protected. Can you imagine if you could walk into a Burger King and be able to order a Big Mac? Intellectual property must be protected by governments and individuals.