ICT

Copyright

Copyright gives the creators of some types of media rights to control how they're used and distributed. Music, books, video and software [software: a general term used to describe an application or a program ] can all be covered by copyright law.

Copyright law

Limitations imposed by copyright

When you buy software, for example, copyright law forbids you from:

  • giving a copy to a friend
  • making a copy and then selling it
  • using the software on a network [network: a group of interconnected computers ] (unless the licence [software licence: a legal agreement between the company who published the software and the end user covering areas such as copyright ] allows it)
  • renting the software without the permission of the copyright holder

The law that governs copyright in the UK is called the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Prevention of software piracy

Software companies take many steps to stop software piracy [piracy: acquiring, profiting from, using or making changes to copyrighted material without prior permission ]:

  • An agreement between the company that developed the software and the user must be agreed before the software is installed. This is called the license agreement and covers copyright.
  • Certain pieces of software require a unique licence key to be entered before the installation will continue.
  • Some applications or programs [program: a list of instructions written in a programming language ] will only run if the media (CD [Compact Disc (CD): used to store data, eg music CD ] / DVD [Digital Versatile Disc (DVD): used to store data, eg a movie ]) is in the drive.
  • Some applications or programs will only run if a special piece of hardware [hardware: the physical components of a computer ] called a dongle [dongle: a small piece of hardware that connects to a computer, eg a USB memory stick ] is plugged into the back of the computer.

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST)

FAST was founded in 1984 by the software [software: a general term used to describe an application or a program ] industry and is now supported by over 1,200 companies. It is a not-for-profit organisation with an aim to prevent software piracy [piracy: acquiring, profiting from, using or making changes to copyrighted material without prior permission ] and has a policy of prosecuting anyone found to be breaching copyright [copyright: gives the creator of an original piece of work control over its publication, distribution and adaptation ] law.

FAST also works to educate the public about good software practice and legal requirements.

Sample question on copyright law

Question

Describe one way in which the software industry prevents people from copying software illegally. (2 marks)

toggle answer

Answer

Answer A:

Certain pieces of software require a unique licence key to be entered before the installation will continue.

Answer B:

Some software has a sticker on it telling you it must not be copied. It can only be copied in accordance with the licence agreement.

Answer C:

The software industry has set up an organisation called FAST to try to prevent users from breaking copyright law. Offenders can be prosecuted and sent to prison if caught.

Examiner's comment:

Any of the above answers are correct and you would be given two marks. The verb 'describe' in the question means that the answer requires a description or account rather than just a list or a word.

Although the instructions say 'describe one way', the question is worth 2 marks. Two pieces of information are needed - what the prevention is and how it works. If you only give one piece of information, you would only get one mark.

Another key phrase is 'software industry'. The question is asking how the 'software industry' is trying to stop the copying of software, not how the 'computer user' is trying to stop it. You wouldn't get any points if you wrote 'Don't let anyone get into the computer to copy software by having a password.' If you wrote this, the examiner would think that you haven't answered the question because you have not read the question properly.

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