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PC Technician's Software Copyright Responsibilities

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 illegal software.

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