Every material created whether it is literary, scientific, artistic, it does not matter in what form it is, digital, analog, print, video, recorded music, and the list could go on are all protected by the copyright law. What that means is it is only the creators that have the right to reproduce and be benefited financially from their work or do whatever they like with the work, like giving a free access to it. Any second or third party will have to get their consent to use the material for any purpose.
Alternatively, there is what is know as “fair use”, where a certain amount of the material could be put to use for various purposes. The law dictates how much should be used and how it should be presented, where in most cases it is only few lines that is allowed and the name of the original creator will have to be mentioned or the user will have to use the available mechanisms to tell the users that the material is quoted from another source.
This law known as the Berne Convention was working fine for most cases even if it had never been a 100 percent ironclad method that will make it impossible for anyone to use a copyrighted material at all. Piracy had been around for as long as original works were around and it is its existence that instigated the coming up of a law to protect the rights of the original creators to be the sole beneficiaries of their own creation. One of the main reasons cited is if these creators of material do not have the protection of the law to be duly benefited form they work, they could be discouraged to be creative.
Even if it is difficult, if someone is caught while being benefited financially from a copyrighted material, the law will hand down a stiff penalty, and since many individuals are aware of the existence of the strict law, unless they are certain that they will get away with it, they usually refrain from abusing the law. At the same time, it might be possible to copy a material and distribute it free, for example for the purpose of educating, in learning institutions, and this kind of usage is allowed as long as no one is being benefited from the process financially.
There is no mechanism that will prevent anyone from obtaining a copyrighted material and create a duplicate of it to put on sale. As long as the product is good enough and people are willing to pay for it, the perpetrator could get away with it. Even if it is with the government these kinds of material are copyrighted, it is the responsibility of the creator to do the policing, and it is only when the wrongdoing is brought to the court of law the government will be in a position to hand down a verdict. That is why it is difficult to do the policing outside of given jurisdictions that are not signatory nations to the Berne Convention.
After the advent of computers and the Internet the rule totally had changed because of the ease that was created to reproduce digital material and do whatever is intended with them, like share them among a big network or even attempt to be benefited from them financially. As the technology became more advanced it had become possible to convert material like books, music, and films into digital format and they could easily be zapped around, without many people paying money for them, costing the original creators a lot of money.
Pirating is not a new phenomenon, as books, cassettes, tapes, records, computer software, videos, compact disks of all kinds can easily be copied and resold as the original products, mostly in black-markets, rendering an equivalent service and satisfaction as the original products, but because of the distribution gridlock that will be created in most cases it will not be very effective, yet it is still damaging financially. Software makers like Microsoft, for example, always lose a lot of money for bootleggers, and what makes their effort profitable is the sale they generate from the mainstream of society, which is considerably high.
There is a presumption that bootleggers could get away making a similar profit in the backwaters of certain geographical regions of the globe. The software makers are chugging along by losing a lot of profit to the bootleggers and they have not still come up with a permanent solution. The same is applicable with ebooks, music, videos, and DVDs lately.
This same problem started hitting at the digital products of the music and the movie industry lately and they went up in arms to protect their eroded sales revenue, as a good number of sources came into existence that started distributing their products free in what was known as peer-to- peer (P2P) file exchange where a big number of individuals were able to download music and movies without paying for them. All they were able to do, at the beginning, was to take legal measure against these sources so that they will refrain from facilitating the huge file swapping. They had been successful to the point where some of them had to go and those that stayed around came up with a method of charging those who are downloading copyrighted material and they share the revenue with those who own the copyrights.
That, however, was not enough because people can still copy digital material, and pass it around among friends that could be large in number. There could also be others who could be benefited financially somehow like the digital bootleggers, and that definitely eats again into the profit these entities will be making from sales. That is when it seems that they started working on a technology that will prevent users from making more than a given number of copies from CDs or DVDs they buy and when that effort became public knowledge and some of the earlier technologies surfaced it created a big uproar as many opponents raised their voice.
Among the vocal ones were those who said the measures could drive products out of the market that would have facilitated the copying of material from one source to the other, and the long-term effect is not known. The other condemnation that had been around for a while that was sent home by what Sony did recently is the hiding of what the companies are exactly doing through the process of preventing piracy or wrongful duplication and distribution of their products. Companies could end up invading privacy or others could take advantage of the weaknesses they introduce into a system. There are also some who say certain technologies like the ones that enabled people to download or exchange material peer-to-peer could be prevented from evolving to serve other positive purposes, and that also applies to products that would have been used to facilitate the moving around of material as there is lack of compatibility.
The other group is those who are saying that users have to have the discretion of doing what they want with what they paid for, which include distributing of material to family members and friends, or to be able to mix various material without being restricted to be engaged only in a given number of copying activity. Some even have complained that it is not possible to use different makes of equipment because of the restriction that could be put on most CDs or DVDs preventing them to be used on some equipment or platforms. For example those that work on Windows operating system for the most part do not work on Apple where because of lack of licensing agreement a different version will not be released. If someone wants to copy a protected DVD to a camcorder for the lack of not having the right equipment at hand, it might not work or even making a digital product mobile sometimes could become difficult, like for example, the CDs protected by XCP2 (extended copy protection) technology cannot be moved to Apple iPods unless one obtains a workaround from Sony BMG.
All in all, even if the dust has not settled down yet, if there is anyone who is getting their way for the time being it is the producers of whether it is music or movies, and slowly they are getting the upper-hand and the time they will introduce an ironclad system that meets all the requirements has already arrived. At the same time they have said many times that their problem is not what users that have paid for products are doing with them, but there are others who could take advantage of the weaknesses to enrich themselves, which would result in depriving the producers the income they deserve. This shows that at the same time effort has undergone to draw a line somewhere, where the outcome will be satisfactory for all involved.