Copyright law protects original works of authorship by providing the copyright holder with a legal monopoly on the right to use and profit from the work. A copyright violation occurs when someone else uses or profits from a copyrighted work without the authorization of the copyright holder. The most frequent copyright violations are related to computer and digital technology.
Software piracy can occur in two ways. The most common way is for someone to copy an entire software algorithm and use it or sell it without paying royalties to the copyright holder. Many pirated copies of software programs, such as Microsoft Word, are sold in Asia. A more subtle way to infringe a software copyright, however, is to incorporate copyrighted elements of a software algorithm into a new software product. Because the infringement is imbedded within a larger algorithm, this type of piracy can be difficult to detect.
File sharing occurs when an Internet user uploads a digital copy of a copyrighted work to a website, and another user copies the uploaded copy and downloads it to his computer. Widespread file sharing has been blamed for reducing sales of music CDs by as much as 30 percent. The Recording Industry Association of America has filed hundreds of copyright lawsuits against users of file-sharing websites.
Many users upload copyrighted material to websites that do not facilitate file sharing, such as YouTube. Even though these websites do not offer a means to download the copyrighted material, users gain free access to the copyrighted material. Some illegally uploaded YouTube videos featuring copyrighted music include disclaimers invoking the "fair use" exception to copyright protection, which allows anyone to use a small portion of a copyrighted work for certain purposes such as commentary or education. However, the fair use exception does not permit the use of an entire song.
Burning CDs and DVDs
Anyone who purchases a copyrighted CD or DVD is allowed to burn one copy for backup purposes. Even this copy, however, cannot be sold or given to someone else, because this would provide a disincentive for the second user to purchase a copy of the work from an authorized distributor who pays royalties to the copyright holder.