Peer-to-Peer File Sharing and Copyright Infringements

Published 12/05/2004 16:38   |    Updated 07/03/2008 15:59

What are some of the legal issues regarding Peer-to-Peer File Sharing and Copyright?


What is Copyright?

Copyright is a property right, essentially giving the copyright owner the exclusive rights to produce copies, control or perform an original literary, musical, dramatic or artistic work. In Ireland, copyright is legally defined in the Copyright and related acts, 2000. Computer software is defined in the Act as a 'literary work' and is therefore protected by the Act.

What is Copyright Infringement?
If a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is used in any way without the permission of the copyright owner, then it could well be an infringement of the owner's copyright as defined in the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000. For example, if a software program is copied without the copyright owner's authorisation, that is an infringement.

Under the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 it is unlawful to take an unauthorised copy of someone else's work. A person holds the copyright in that work if it is the product of their intellectual activity and hence is their intellectual property.

Do not use someone else's work unless:

  • You have that person's permission in writing.
  • You are sure that the material is not protected by copyright.



Software & Copyright

With regard to software, the copyright owner is the software developer/publisher. Breaking the law could have serious consequences.

  • A software licensee never takes ownership of the copyright in the software; he merely purchases a license to use the protected software under the terms and conditions set by the copyright owner and the law.
  • Copyright exists in a work from the moment it is recorded.
  • Penalties for civil copyright infringement may include compensation to the copyright owner for damage caused to his business.

  • Criminal penalties can include fines and up to ten years in prison.
  • The rental of software is illegal without the express permission of the copyright holder.
  • No one is exempt from copyright law. All individuals, organisations and government agencies are subject to the law.
  • Web publication or other Internet-based publication does not take a work outside the realm of copyright law: you still need the copyright owner's permission to publish their work regardless of the publication medium.



Top Tips

  • Make sure you keep your licenses in electronic or paper format - these are valuable documents.
  • Buy from reputable dealers.
  • Obtain a written quotation listing hardware/software specification and version.
  • Ask for an itemised invoice giving details of all hardware and software supplied.
  • Do not allow dealers to visit your home and install software directly onto your computer without providing licenses.
  • Remember even Shareware will require to be purchased or deleted after the evaluation period.



Music, Film & Copyright

Copyright infringement of audio-visual works, often referred to as piracy, occurs when unauthorised copies are made of music, movies and similar works. These are also known as warez. Online piracy is the distribution or sale of such unauthorised copyrighted material via the Internet.

This can take the form of either physical goods (e.g. DVDs) being sold through websites and auction houses, or the sharing of infringing copyrighted material through sophisticated online methodology such as FTP, IRC, Bit Torrent, P2P and file-sharing networks.

Illegal DVDs have many outlets, including via legal markets, under the counter in pubs and clubs and even door-to-door. Increasingly they are sold within the workplace and in social circles, and they are proliferating online.



File Sharing, Peer-to-Peer & Copyright

File sharing is the sharing or exchange of files between people using computers connected to the Internet. The term covers both making the file available (uploading), for instance on a file-sharing service such as Limewire, and the downloading of that file from the Internet to a computer.

File sharing is not illegal if it involves sharing your own files. You can share photos from your last holiday with your friends and family, but uploading and downloading music and films without prior permission from the rights holder is illegal in Europe and in most other countries in the world.

A peer-to-peer network is a technology that allows those that are connected to the network to exchange files. It is only one of several ways files are shared on the Internet. But because of the anonymity these peer-to-peer networks have offered, they have often been associated with file sharing, in particular the illegal file sharing of music and film.



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