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Copyright laws and how they apply to Geeks To Go policy


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#1
dsenette

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Copyright laws and how they apply to Geeks To Go policy

Ok, there are a lot of confusing things in the world, Micro Biology, Physics, why Paris Hilton is famous...but one of the MOST confusing things that i can think of are the myriad copyright laws that exist among the various governments in the world. I bought this stuff why can't i do with it how i please? Simple answer: the person that created that "stuff" needs to eat (yeah...that's an over simplification but it all boils down to money in someone's pocket...whether you agree to that money being in their pocket or not).

So what does that mean in real terms? Well i'm going to attempt to translate U.S. copyright laws (in general) into something that's easy to understand (i hope). I cannot hope to include all countries and governments in this article because that would just be too difficult. This is an American based company so we have to comply with American laws.

Note: It is VERY important to note that this article is NOT all inclusive, nor is it meant to be a legal document. This article is meant to demystify some of the legal mumbo-jumbo involved in copyright law for the purposes of relating these laws to the way we do business here at Geeks To Go. This document reflects the understanding and application of U.S. copyright law with regards to the Geeks To Go TOU (Terms Of Use) and will be used to define what is and is not acceptable on the forums with regards to copyright related questions questions. This information is to be held separate from your own personal beliefs about copyright laws, DRM, the RIAA, et al. Your personal feelings on what "should" be legal are completely irrespective of what IS legal.

This article will be broken up into several sections:

Physical Media (Music, Movies, Applications, and Video Games)
Digital Media (Music, Movies, Applications, and Video Games)

First let's cover the section that should be the easiest to understand, Physical media.


Physical Media (Music, Movies, Applications, and Video Games)

Ancient cultures (such as the Native Americans) had no concept of ownership. Everything that they "had" was from nature so nature owned it. Why would anyone else think that they could own anything from nature? Enter the Europeans and their well developed concept of "That's mine!". This concept of ownership was applied to every physical thing that someone could touch and desired that no one else could touch. Which is why the laws and licensing rules that govern physical media are so confusing to most people these days.

I bought this THING, it's a physical THING. I can touch it, hold it, sleep with it under my pillow, or use it as a Frisbee. Surely that means I own it and can do with it what I will right? WRONG! What you bought isn't a thing, it's a conveyance of someone else's ideas and work, be that music, a movie, or an application. When you buy something that resides on physical media you don't own anything. You have paid for the RIGHT to use what is contained on that media, and by purchasing the product you have agreed to the terms and conditions that the creator of that product has defined as "acceptable use".

so let's break this down further into what you can actually do with physical media grouped by content:

Music
When speaking of the physical media related to music, you're talking about the ubiquitous Compact Disk (CD). If you're walking around right now with a boombox on your shoulder wearing parachute pants listening to M.C. Hammer, then you're probably talking about cassette tapes (that haircut went out of style a LONG time ago buddy, LIVE IN THE NOW!).

Cassette tapes have easy rights. Pretty much anything goes with regards to the physical media as long as you're not doing it for profit. You can make backup copies, make a mix tape, etc.. as long as it's for PERSONAL use.

With Music CDs you've got certain rights pertaining to those disks and the contents there of.

Rights you have:
  • Make duplicates of the disk for backup purposes
  • Transfer/Transcode the contents of the disk into the digital format of your choice for PRIVATE USE ONLY
  • Put the disk in a CD player and dance around your house like a goober singing along
Rights you DON'T have:
  • Make duplicates of the disk for sale or distribution. You CANNOT make a copy of your favorite CD and give/sell it to a friend UNLESS you are the original creator of the content
  • Transfer/Transcode the contents of the disk into the digital format of your choice for sale or distribution.
  • You CANNOT rip a CD then post the resulting digital file on the internet,
  • You CANNOT rip a CD then share it through P2P programs,
  • You CANNOT rip a CD then transfer those files from your computer/mp3 player to your friend's computer/mp3 player (unless your friend owns the CD as well)
  • Dance around your room singing the wrong lyrics to the song while you listen to the CD. OK i guess you CAN do that, but you really shouldn't.

CD rights are very permissive as long as it refers to personal use. ANYTHING that involves public exposition or use for profit is off limits.

Movies
The physical media for movies are VHS tapes (yeah...they're still around), DVDs, and Blue Ray disks (if you're crazy you may still have some laser disks lying around, but i defy you to find a way to copy those)

VHS tapes are easy. You can pretty much do what you like with them as long as you're not doing anything with them for profit (copying them to sell, showing the movie in a large audience, transcoding the contents to DVD and then selling/presenting them).

DVDs and Blue Rays are different. Here's how:

Rights you have:
  • Put the DVD/Blue Ray disk in your DVD/Blue Ray player and watch the movie
  • Throw popcorn at your TV if the movie stinks
Rights you DON'T have:
  • Copy the disk for ANY reason. This means no backup copies, no copies to give to a friend, no copies to sell, no copies to use as coasters or Frisbees.
  • Transfer/Transcode the contents to ANY digital media.
  • You CANNOT transcode/rip the movie from the disk onto your computer to watch on vacation
  • You CANNOT transcode/rip the movie from the disk to share with your friends
  • You CANNOT transcode/rip the movie from the disk to sell
  • You CANNOT transcode/rip the movie from the disk then post the movie (as a part or in whole) on the internet
  • You CANNOT transcode/rip the movie from the disk to share it through P2P programs
  • You CANNOT transcode/rip the movie from the disk to play it on your iPod/iTouch/iPhone/Zune/et al.

    Basically if what you want to do involves taking the contents of the disk and transferring it to something that's not the original disk, you can't do it.


Applications

Most applications that have physical media are distributed on CD or DVD. Every once in a while you'll find some creative company that's got a marketing hook so they deliver their product via USB or memory card or some other odd media decision. The rights that you have to the contents of this media varies by product but some general rules apply. With applications and games it is IMPERATIVE that you realize that, in general, you DO NOT OWN the product contained on the media. You paid for the right to USE the product but you DO NOT OWN the product.

This concept is called "licensing". When you purchase software you're actually purchasing a license to use the software. You do not OWN the software and therefore you (in general) cannot do anything with the software that you could normally do with something you own (such as resell it, share it, modify it, etc...).

This is a very difficult concept for most people to understand because USUALLY when you buy something, you ultimately own that something. One way to possibly explain this concept is to view software licensing as if it were a driver's license (or a pilot's license if you're lucky). A driver's license doesn't give you anything physical to own (except the little card in your wallet). What it gives you is the RIGHT (or license) to drive a motor vehicle within the confines of local laws regarding to motor vehicle operation. That right is not given in perpetuity (forever), instead it's given with the knowledge that it can be revoked at any time should you choose to break the laws (license agreement) that you agreed to follow when you got your license. So if you speed or drive drunk, for example, your license can be revoked. With software, it's the same. When you click "I accept" on the screen that displays the EULA while installing the software, you have agreed to abide by the rules set forth therein. The moment you break one of those rules, your LEGAL right (license) to use that software has been revoked.


Rights you have:
(Note: AGAIN these are GENERAL rules. ALWAYS read the EULA (End User License Agreement) for ALL software products)
  • Make duplicates of the media for backup purposes
  • Transfer the contents of the media to your computer for personal use
  • "Image" the contents of the media to your computer in a format that allows the application to be run without the CD/DVD as long as you OWN and maintain POSSESSION of the original media
  • Install the software on the amount of computers that you have purchased licensing for (applies to multi-seat applications with multi-use licensing structures ONLY)

Rights you DON'T have:
(Note: AGAIN these are GENERAL rules. ALWAYS read the EULA (End User License Agreement) for ALL software products)
  • Make duplicates of the media for sale or distribution
  • Transfer the contents of the media to your computer for the purposes of sale or distribution
  • Transfer the contents of the media to your computer for the purposes of posting the software on P2P sites
  • "Image" the contents of the media to your computer in a format that allows the application to be run without the CD/DVD if you have not purchased the product nor do you maintain ownership or possession of the original media
  • Install the software on any amount of computers that are outside the purchased licensing amount.

Software licensing is VERY unique. Each and every software manufacturer has their own set of rules/guidelines on their products. Even FREE software has an EULA and it must be read. MANY distributors of free software products explicitly state that their product cannot be used in a corporate environment. If you work in a corporate environment, buy the full version.


Video Games
Video games come in two flavors, Console and PC. Console games are those that can only be played on the target console (XBox, Wii, PS3, etc..) and PC games are those which are intended to be installed on a computer. Console games are usually distributed on some form of optical media (CD, DVD, Blue Ray) or a proprietary game cartridge (Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc...). PC games are usually distributed on optical media (CD, DVD, Blue Ray) though older games were usually distributed on floppy drives (i've still got the 5.25" floppy set with the Oregon trail on it. I don't have a 5.25" drive but that's not the point. You've got dysentery!)

PC games follow the same rules as non-game applications. (see above section on application media)

The rights you have over cartridge based games are pretty simple

Rights you have:
  • You can insert the cartridge into the correct gaming console and play the game
  • You can smash the cartridge into a million pieces if the game sucks
  • You can blow on the cartridge 3 times (always blow from left to right in a 1 slow-1 fast-1 slow pattern), insert the cartridge as far to the left in the slot as possible, while holding your breath and counting to ten, before immediately closing the cartridge door and pressing the power button at the same time while hopping on one foot and doing a rain dance (this MIGHT make a finicky NES game play correctly)
Rights you DON'T have:
  • You cannot copy them, unless you've got some pretty strong electronics knowledge it's pretty much physically impossible.
Console games are a little different but very similar to those of Movie media.

Rights you have:
  • You can insert the disk into the correct gaming console and play the game
  • You can smash the disk into a million pieces if the game sucks

Rights you DON'T have:
  • You CANNOT duplicate the disk in any way for any reason
  • You CANNOT transcode/transfer the contents of the disk onto your computer for ANY purpose
  • You CANNOT use emulators to play the games from the disk on your computer
  • You CANNOT use the game in any exhibition for money without the written permission of the game creator

Now let's cover one of the more confusing sections, Digital Media.


Digital Media (Music, Movies, Applications, and Video Games)

Historically, if you wanted something someone had to physically make it first. There had to be some THING in existence for you to own it. Today, however, it's possible to buy what amounts to electrons (or at least an arrangement of ones and zeros that instruct a machine to move electrons in an orderly fashion). This new concept of digital ownership has brought with it a world of confusion about what you actually own and what you can do with it. What you're buying when you buy something that exists solely in the digital realm is a right to use the intellectual creations of another person (the phrase "intellectual property" should be buzzing around in your head right now). When someone creates a physical product, it's VERY easy to see it's worth, value, and the energy it took to create said product. This makes it MUCH easier to understand the licensing and usage rights that you have to that product. It's right in front of you, someone took the time to shape a piece of metal into a car, or mold plastic into a bottle then fill it with soda. But with digital products this tangible sense of worth is gone. Nobody sat in a hot casting facility pouring molten metal into a mold, nobody sat for hours carving wood into a sculpture. Instead someone has sat for hours writing code into a machine that allows their creative vision to create an application or a video game. Someone has taken the time to create and use an application that can take music or movies and turn them into a purely digital form. So where's the product? The product is the content, and the content should be treated the same as any physical product that can be purchased.

So as with any product you, the end user, have certain rights to that product after you have purchased it.

Music

Generally when someone discusses digital music, they're talking about MP3s (yes there are other formats for compressing and delivering music content but let's just stick to one). An MP3 is a compressed digital version of an analog sound signal. That's it. No magic, no sorcery, just taking the analog sound generated by an instrument and turning it into ones and zeros, then making those ones and zeros fit into a small enough package to make them usable. Of course you can create purely digital music as well through various systems, but the end result of an MP3 is the same. So what can you do with an MP3?

Rights you have:
  • You can copy an MP3 to/from a digital media player (iPod, Zune, etc...) or computer as long as you have purchased the MP3 or you have transcoded/ripped the MP3 from a CD that you own and maintain possession of.
  • You can transfer an MP3 to/from some form of optical media (i.e. CD) or other storage device (i.e. USB thumb drive, external hard drive) for personal use (again assuming you have established ownership of the file).
  • You can miss your stop on the subway because you were rocking out to the newest hit on your digital media player and didn't pay attention to where you were.

Rights you DON'T have:
  • You CANNOT copy an MP3 to/from a digital media player if you have NOT legally obtained said file (either through purchase or legal transcoding/ripping from physical media that you own and maintain possession of)
  • You CANNOT transfer an MP3 to/from your friend's digital media player or computer unless you have purchased the MP3 file yourself from an authorized source or transcoded/ripped the file from media that you own and maintain possession of
  • You CANNOT transfer an MP3 to/from optical media (i.e. CD) or other storage device (i.e. USB thumb drive, external hard drive) for the purpose of distribution for profit (i.e. burning MP3s to CD then selling the CDs)
  • You CANNOT host/share MP3 files in any way through the internet unless you are the sole creator of the content. This includes the use of P2P programs.
Movies
There are more and more places on the interwebs where you can watch video content every day. Some of these places show original content (YouTube, weebles-stuff.com, etc...) and some show "Network" generated content (NBC.com, HULU.com, etc...). Some of this content is recorded "live action" and then digitized and some is created in a digital format to begin with (animation). In all cases the content is someone's creative work put on display for you to watch and enjoy.

Rights you have:
  • You can go to the website that hosts the original/"network" videos and watch them there in the pre-described media player.
  • You can send a link to the dramatic hamster (which is actually a prairie dog) to everyone in your office any time something "shady" goes down.
  • IF (and only if) the site that generates and hosts the original content has a download link you can download the video to watch again and again.
Rights you DON'T have:
  • You CANNOT download (through any means) any video file that is hosted on a site that DOES NOT specifically have a download link. If they wanted you to be able to download the file for future use they would supply a download link.
  • You CANNOT use ANY original work that was created by someone else as part or the entirety of your own video creation without the permission of the original creator.
  • You CANNOT share any video that you have obtained illegally on the internet in any way

YouTube is great, there's all kinds of funny stuff there. However, some people have started using programs and websites designed to copy the video from YouTube (and other similar sites) so that they can distribute or use the videos outside of the EULA of YouTube. If there isn't a download link, then the video is not for downloading.

Applications

Many companies (and individuals) have begun providing their software packages on the internet. Sometimes the application is run within a browser and sometimes the application is offered as a download so that you don't have to wait for a CD to arrive from the company. Either way, it's much easier to get a product from the internet than it is to go to the store and pick up the CD. Some applications are provided for free, some applications are provided with a limited free trial period, and some applications are provided for a fee only.

In General the same rules that apply to software applications that are obtained on physical media apply to digitally available software packages. The main exception comes when you talk about "free to use" products and "free trial" products.

Software packages that are offered for free on the INTERNET are just that. Free to use as long as you comply with the EULA. Typically most FREE products are NOT licensed for corporate use. This USUALLY includes any organization or company, even a business run out of your home or a charity organization. If you want to run the software on multiple computers in a corporate environment you must buy the full version and if you want to use the products in a business setting or for any purpose related to an organization or charity group. Of course this is all dependent on the SPECIFIC EULA of the product in question, always read the EULA thoroughly and completely before installing/using any software package.

Free trial products are free for a predefined period of time or free with functional limitations in place on the product. You are allowed to use the product with the framework of the free trial EULA. At the end of the trial period you are required to purchase a license to continue to use the product. For functionally limited trial products you must buy a license to extend the functionality into the full version. Extending the trial product (either in time period or functionality) by any means other than purchasing the full license from the company that created the product (or a licensed reseller) is illegal.

For applications that run within your browser, it is illegal to link to that application claiming that it is your own work or without the permission of the owner of the product.

It is also ALWAYS illegal to share/host a product that you have purchased (or obtained illegally) on the internet via P2P or any other means.


Video Games
Video games are distributed in digital formats much the same way as any other application. They are either available for download (after purchase or for a trial period) or they are designed to be played within your browser. All of the rules for non-game applications apply to game applications in digital formats.

So, clear as mud right? The world of copyright law is deep and complex and it takes a lot of weird turns along the way. There are multitudes of exceptions and more double talk than you can shake a wounded lama at. If you're ever in doubt as to the legality of copyright question, remember two things that are a prevailing theme in ALL copyright laws. One is INTENT and the other is METHOD. If the intent is to make money in any way by using the creation of someone else who hasn't given you permission to use that creation, then it's against the law. If the method you use to duplicate/reproduce any creation of someone else circumvents ANYTHING that was put in place to prevent duplication/reproduction then it's against the law. There are many ways that people/companies attempt to prevent duplication/reproduction ranging from a simple "no photography/recording" sign to complex DRM software. Also remember that these last two generalizations are NOT mutually exclusive. If someone's intent is good (they want to make a backup of a DVD for safe keeping) but their method is not (the DVD has DRM and they have to break that to make the copy) then it's still illegal.
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#2
rcramm

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Wow! Well Done!! That must have taken hours to type up but it kept my attention the whole time!! :)
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#3
hawklord

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just a note on this,

over here in blighty its still actually illegal to copy any cd - even for personal use,
the only thing that is allowed to be "backed up" is a computer program,

as dsenette points out, its american law on an american site - but its still illegal in the uk,

uk copyright law

http://www.copyright...k_copyright_law

as uk copyright law is civil and not criminal, then there is less for the accuser to prove,

just another little note,

i still have video cassettes (original hellraiser collection :) ), this is on the back, in very, very small letters

licensed for private home exhibition only.
this motion picture, including its soundtrack, is protected by copyright.
any broadcast, public performance, diffusion, copying or editing is prohibited unless expressly authorized.
this prohibition may be enforced by legal action.


so its naughty, naughty, smacky hands copying commercial videos as well,

but..... well thats another story
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#4
Ehsanit

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So to clarify, we're supposed to assume that everyone is in the States because that's where the site is based; if the helper or the Original Poster is elsewhere they are responsible for ensuring their own legality?  

I loved the way this guide was written, it kept my interest and was pointedly simple.  I do think however that it could do with a few lines about open licences such as Creative Commons or the GNU GPL, which are obviously different from most corporate EULAs.

Edited by Ehsanit, 03 December 2010 - 06:50 AM.

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#5
KristopherJames

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I guess I will ask this as a person who does some entertainment work - Are the avatars that are made available for anyone (specifically the Simpsons, Looney Toons, and the other ones that are characters from cartoons) licensed by the people who own the bulletin board server, or has the Geeks To Go forum gotten permission to use them, or are they just being used freely?

I know that I am new to the forum, but I know sometimes little things like this don't always get thought about as much, but since copyright is something important to the forum Admins, I figured it was worth asking. Not that I want to lose Homer here, but I can always come up with something else :)
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#6
Lynn63

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LOL I hear ya.. My nickname is rabbit, so naturally I chose the female loony tune version for an avatar! Am I breaking the law???
:blink:
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#7
Lynn63

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yep, very informative! Thank you :)
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#8
Plastic Nev

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As an amateur musician, (I play one of those things in my avatar) I am very concious of all things copyright, unless I compose the music myself, either myself or the band I play with has to buy the rights to play it, especially if we/myself are to play someone else work publicly. If in fact I was a good enough musician to write my own music, either for myself or any band I play in, ideally I should register that piece and cover it with its own copyright, otherwise without doing so, someone else can steal it, copyright it themselves and in theory bar me from playing my own stuff.

 

Just briefly, the question asked regarding the forum hosted avatars I would think admin have already looked into the copyrights involved and hopefully the images used are free for any use. However, though it is very inlikely to be persued by the law, it is still good practice to make sure that any image used in your own avatar is free to use, the best of course is take or create the picture yourself.

 

That complete article and post as above by dsenette is very good and very comprehensive, most of everything in it is covered by most countries anyway with minor additions or changes, with in some instances tighter rules as pointed out by hawklord, some aspects in the uk are tighter than the American equivalent.

 

One thing we can say and put in a small as possible shell is that once you have legally bought, a book on paper, an old vynil disk, an audio or video cassette, a CD, or DVD or even a flash drive or hard drive, you do actually own the paper, the lump of plastic or lumps that cassettes, CD's DVD's and flash or hard drives are made out of, that is yours to do with whatever you want up to a certain point, beyond that point is to copy directly that container of media for mass sale and distribution as that is quite often covered by a different set of laws called patents.

 

What you do not own is the actual content of the plastic,metal or paper, as said above, it is licensed for your own personal use. You own the paper and the book, even the ink on the paper, you do not own the story that the ink has written. We could even say you own the groove in the vynil disk, you don't own the sound that the groove makes. That principal is carried across into the full digital realms in whatever form it takes.

 

A quick edit to add, that yes in principal some parts of copyright law is perhaps a bit over the top, as a now retired electrician, any of you reading this could well have asked me to install a new lighting point and a switch to turnit on or off. You pay me for doing that job and we are both happy, however if we were to get silly, no doubt in some aspects of copyright,as well as you paying for the electricity it uses, I could then charge a small fee every time you turn that light on.

 

Nev.


Edited by Plastic Nev, 15 August 2014 - 01:39 PM.

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