PC Technician's Software Copyright Responsibilities
By Stephen Bucaro
Many people view copyright law as something used by greedy people and companies
to prevent the average guy from earning a living. They view it as something that
stifles free enterprise. Actually, the opposite is true. If creative work wasn't
protected, copies of it would flood the market immediately after it was created
and nobody would profit. Why would anyone want to do the work required to create
something unique if there was no way they could profit from that work?
Copyright law goes all the way back to the founding fathers who, in order "to
promote the progress of science and useful arts" in Article I, Section 8 of the
Constitution, secured for authors, artists and inventors the exclusive right to
their work for 28 years. In 1978, the law was revised to provide protection until
50 years after the creator's death.
When someone buys software, they don't actually OWN it. The software's copyright
belongs to the company that developed the software. What you purchase when you
buy software is the right to USE the software, usually on one computer. The Copyright
Act of 1976 gives people who own legally obtained software the right to make one
backup copy. In 1992, Congress instituted criminal penalties of up to five years in
prison or a fine of up to $250,000 for making illegal copies of software.
As a PC Technician, working on other people's computers, you'll be in a position
to encounter illegally copied software. For example, maybe you need to re-install
a customer's operating system or application software and you find that the customer
is using an illegal copy. What do you do? Do you go ahead and install the illegal software?
If you know that the software is an illegal copy, and you go ahead and install it
on the customer's computer, you could be charged as an accomplice in a criminal
act of software theft. If you call your supervisor, and he tells you to go ahead
and install the illegal copy, your supervisor is also an accomplice in the crime.
The correct action, as a professional PC Technician, is to explain the consequences
of of using illegally copied software. Explain that you will not risk your career,
not to mention five years in prison or a fine of up to $250,000, by installing
illegal software. Explain that they can either purchase a legal copy of the software
(possibly from you), or that you can recommend a free open source application that
will do the same thing as the illegal software. Today, you can do almost anything
with open source software that you can do with copyrighted software.
If you're a working in a office, and you encounter illegally copied software, part
of your responsibility to your company as a professional PC Technician, is to inform
your supervisor or manager and warn them of the possible consequences of using illegal
software. Advise them of how the proper license can be acquired, or which free open
source software will do the same thing.
Study the licensing agreement of any software that you install. Site licensing
allows an organization the right to use multiple copies of software. With a site
license, companies can install several copies of the software on their network, or
multiple users can run the software directly off the server. Make sure you keep
track of the number of copies of the software installed to verify that you are in
compliance with the license agreement.
As a PC Technician, working on other people's computers, or working on computers
on an organizations network, you'll be in a position to encounter illegally copied
software. It's your responsibility to advise of the consequences of of using
illegal software, and correct the problem by either buying the required licenses,
or by recommending free open source software that will do the same thing as the
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