Posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017

Under Canada’s Copyright Act, all original expression of ideas in the form of literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works are protected. It doesn’t matter if the material has a registered copyright or not. For the purpose of the Act, software programs are considered literary works.

What about software programs? The Copyright Act defines copyright infringement regarding software programs as any unauthorized use of that program. This extends to shareware and even macros. Under the Act, for example, it’s illegal to:

• Copy, distribute, install, or use licensed software without purchasing a licence
• Crack a shareware program to gain full functionality without paying the copyright holder a licence fee
• Use macros found on the Internet without the author’s permission

I like to listen to music while I work. Is it OK to download music files? Search engines like Gnutella allow people to easily find MP3 music files and download them. According to music right-holders, most of the music files available through Gnutella are pirated, and therefore illegally distributed. Legally speaking, it may be argued that downloading and listening to MP3 music files, for private use, falls within an exception to copyright protection in Canada. However, such activities would be inconsistent with the appropriate use of government computing resources in the workplace.

There’s another serious issue as well. While you’re connected to Gnutella, other Gnutella users have direct access to your computer and can download your music files. So, in effect, you may be distributing pirated music.

Can graphics be pirated? The Internet is a great source of graphics for use in presentations and documents. However, you must have the artist’s consent before copying or using the work in any media, especially if that media generates revenue.

Most sites will state that the clip art is free or can be used as long as you credit the artist. There are many companies that offer CDs full of thousands of images for your personal use in exchange for a nominal fee.
Be careful when using a company’s logo without permission. Some may appreciate the exposure, but others may see this as an infringement of their trademarks and/or copyright.

What are the legal consequences of breaching copyright law? Anyone who infringes copyright for commercial or business purposes (by selling, renting, or distributing material without authorization, for example) commits an offense under Canada’s Copyright Act, and can face criminal charges. For minor infractions, a person can face a fine of up to $25,000 and/or six months in prison. In cases where there have been numerous infractions, the maximum fine is $1,000,000, and the individual can face up to five years in prison. The person’s employer may be found at fault as well.

The Act also allows for civil action to be brought against the individual and any other parties related to the individual, such as the employer, for acts of infringement even without a commercial purpose. Civil action could see the copyright holder pursuing statutory damages ranging from $500 to $20,000 for each infringement of their work, as well as court costs.

In addition to the legal consequences, a number of other risks are associated with pirated software:

• Inaccurate or incomplete documentation

• No technical support

• Absolutely no assurance of quality or reliability

• Viruses and other malicious code