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BBS Piracy And The Copyright Essay

Recently, The Toronto Star published an article entitled RCMP seizesBBS, piracy charges pending. The RCMP have possessed all computercomponents belonging to the “90 North” bulletin board system in Montreal,Quebec. The board is accused of allowing end-users the opportunity todownload (get) commercial and beta (not marketed, test) software.

After a four month investigation, the RCMP seized ten micro-computersand seven modems. In addition, they found software applications of majorcorporations valued at a sum of approximately $25,000. 00 (It is estimatedthat $200 million dollars are lost in revenues from software piracy,according to the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft {CANST}). For afee of $49/year, the user was enabled to download such software asWordPerfect, Microsoft DOS,Windows, Lotus, Borland C++, dBase IV, and IBMLAN which are all copyrighted by The Canadian Copyright Act. The RCMPacted in response to concern from the users who stated that they were notsure whether this software could be distributed electronically. Yves Roy, sergeant of RCMP stated that charges will be laid in earlyDecember under paragraph 42 of The Copyright Act.

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Conviction under thisact carries a maximum punishment of a fine of $1 million dollars, and/or 5years imprisonment. Because newspaper articles are very biased in one point-of- view, itis difficult to look at both sides of this situation. But let us discusspiracy in a more general manner. Software piracy is the act in whichsomeone takes a copyrighted portion or whole of software, thenelectronically copies and/or distributes it, with or without modificationof any sort. The software is distributed to other people and/ororganizations who financially or otherwise charge/trade for the software’suse, and lacking authority or permission from the company or person inwhich the software is copyrighted by.

According to the article, the “90 North” BBS satisfies the softwarepiracy definition and is therefore guilty of the act. The BBS is furtherliable if the software companies decide to file law suites against them. This is all fairly evident, but we need to ask ourselves whether TheCopyright Act and its punishments are fair for modern society. To answerthis question, we need to look at piracy and how it affects the world as awhole.

One may wonder how “90 North” makes its money. Just to stay at abreak even point, it needs 2,500 members! The answer is that the BBS doesnot buy the software from retailers. It buys the software from”pirate/cracking groups” such as The Humble Guys (THG), InternationalNetwork of Crackers (INC), National Elite Underground Alliance (NEUA),Software Exchange (SEX), Public Enemy (PE), etc. (most of the groups aredeal in the U.

S. only). But how do these organizations get their software?From various places around the world such as Europe, the pirategroups pay people who work in software companies to send them commercial orbeta software. Then the pirate groups hire “crackers” (people who alterthe program’s code) to un-copy-protect the software.

Once this is done,the pirate groups ask various U. S. BBS’s to pay them for thisun-copy-protected software. Then, as you already know, the BBS asks theend-user for an annual fee to have access to the BBS.

So, for anindividual to risk his job for a fast buck, many people are able to getsoftware at much of a discount. Canadians, however, are far luckier than the United States. Canadianpirate BBS’s have a policy “you get as much as you give” (at variousratios), meaning that the amount of software you give to the board, is theamount of software (in bytes) you may receive; and no fee is required. Assoftware gets bumped from one BBS to another in the states, it eventuallymakes it way up into Canada, where BBS users have the opportunity to getcommercial software simply by giving the board other software. So what does all this activity tell us? This tells us the people arewilling to go to great lengths to get software at a lower cost, or possiblyin exchange for other software and are succeeding in their efforts. Although more than 50% of their income is from other companies which do notpirate, this posses a problem for the software industries.

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By fining asingle bulletin board out of the thousands in North America, there would belittle accomplished. Not to mention the fact the it is extremely difficultto prove and convict people under the copyright act. This is how the scene looked in 1980 – posing a huge problem ofbusiness and the industry. The picture is much different now.

What didcompanies do to overcome the problem (The Copyright Act didn’t help toomuch!)? Businesses made programs such that one would require a manual,product support, other reference material, etc. So, now when somebody”illegally copies” an application, they need this extra material in orderto use the software efficiently and effectively. There are still somequirks, as someone could photocopy a manual (though fewer people wouldspend the extra time and money). But nevertheless, the software companieshave had success in slowing down the software piracy process. In today’s society, software is at far the least income source forcorporations such as WordPerfect Corp.

They make their money fromindividuals purchasing extra manuals, reference material, supplementaryhardware, and calling product support. Software companies are conscious ofthe pirate world and the changes they have made. Some companies actuallywant you to take the software. With the SHAREWARE concept, one evaluatesthe software, and then pays if s/he feels it is a worthy product. Companies are, of course, satisfied with the current conditions.

Most ofthe companies are still in business, and still bringing up moretechnological advancements. The companies, in one sense , have outsmartedand beaten the pirates. From BBS’s, users have to opportunity to view software and evaluateit before they pay the high cost of the extras. Programmers also have theopportunity to view other works and learn from the advancements, or findthe errors in the beta (or commercial) versions. Like all laws, TheCanadian Copyright Act needs to be modified with the changing society. The act as of now is having little effect.

The Copyright Act needs to bechanged so it reflects, without distortion, the views of individuals andcorporations. A law is made to keep order, and if it doesn’t do that,then certainly it needs modification.

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BBS Piracy And The Copyright Essay
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Recently, The Toronto Star published an article entitled RCMP seizesBBS, piracy charges pending. The RCMP have possessed all computercomponents belonging to the "90 North" bulletin board system in Montreal,Quebec. The board is accused of allowing end-users the opportunity todownload (get) commercial and beta (not marketed, test) software.After a four month investigation, the RCMP seized ten micro-computersand seven modems. In addition, they found software applications of majorcorpor
2021-02-09 09:20:16
BBS Piracy And The Copyright Essay
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