Is Copyright Infringement Stealing?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Copyright laws protect creative works, such as books, music and movies, from unauthorized copying or distribution. For example, pirating music, which means it was copied without permission to avoid purchasing it, is a copyright violation. Such copyright infringement can cost a copyright owner a lot of money, but some people argue it is not really stealing.

Copyright Infringement Vs. Stealing

Copyright infringement, which is the unauthorized copying, distribution or other violation of someone else's copyright, is illegal under U.S. copyright laws, but copyright infringement is its own specific crime. It does not generally fall under the same criminal provisions as other types of theft, like stealing someone's physical property.

Two Sides of the Argument

The recording industry and other groups of copyright holders argue that copyright infringement is stealing just as if the infringer stole the owner's physical property. They argue that the theft of intellectual property through copyright infringement has a very similar impact to stealing of physical property--it costs someone money. However, some people argue that there is no proof the average copyright violation actually costs the company money and, thus, is not stealing. These advocates of copyright infringement say that a person who downloads music in violation of a copyright, for example, may or may not have purchased the music if it had not been available for pirating. Additionally, they say, such downloads may actually increase the copyright holder's sales since it can provide publicity for the creator.

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Most Frequent Copyright Violations

References

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Why Should I Copyright My Thesis?

Copyright protection of your thesis exists once you've written it -- you don't necessarily need to do anything more. The copyright for your thesis will last for the length of your life plus 70 years. Determining whether you should take the additional step of registering your thesis’s copyright depends on several factors.

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A copyright for an original work of authorship gives the copyright owner a set of property rights. During the term of the copyright, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute copies of the work, prepare derivative works, and perform and display the work. A copyright owner also has the right to authorize others to use her work. Copyright laws prohibiting the unauthorized use of copyrighted works are enforced through civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions.

Implications of Copyright Law

A copyright grants its holder a legal monopoly on the use and commercial exploitation of an original work of authorship. Copyright law is authorized by Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Copyrighted material can include such diverse works as musical compositions and software algorithms. The protection of copyrights has a profound effect on the economy.

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