Internet piracy is considered the most important
issue facing the enforcement of copyright laws today. Media companies,
particularly those which specialize in films and music, have been strongly affected
by the ease in digital downloading which the Internet allows even for users
relatively lacking in technical expertise.
such means for digital downloading exists in the form of peer-to-peer services,
though more sophisticated users may attempt to directly hack into other
computers. Operators of services allowing downloading may also be liable for
prosecution. In the United States, such actions have been prohibited since the
1976 No Electronic Theft Act.
Programs designated as malware
are referred to as “computer contaminants” under the legal codes of
several American states. Common varieties in which malware may be found can
include such programs as “Trojan horses,” “adware,”
The different ways of understanding forms of
malware stem from the varying means by which they infect computers. After
infecting a program in one computer, a virus will wait for that computer’s user
to connect to another, thereby allowing the virus its means of transmission.
Another approach is represented by malware falling into the worm category,
which can send themselves across networks and into different computers without
having to depend on the involvement of the user.
horses trick the user into transmitting malware by disguising themselves as
something seemingly harmless. A supplemental, supportive kind of malware is
presented by the rootkit, which allows harmful programs to exist on and work
against an infected computer without being detected by the targeted user or
Targeting online users practicing copyright
infringement or other online activities may proceed from several different
causes. The most common motivation ascribed to the authors of malware is
essentially unmotivated maliciousness, which can run the gamut from a kind of
practical joke to a desire to do severe harm to another person’s computer
hardware or software.
development of online entertainment and commercial activities, financial
motives have also been found to lie behind the creation and dissemination of
intrusive computer programs. Some of these are not normally understood as
malware in that they are not intended to harm the level of performance of their
target or adversely impact the user in other serious ways, but are held to be
more generally undesirable and irritating. This kind of program, sometimes
called “grayware,” may install pop-up ads in an internet browser or
main window, or they may covertly track a user’s habits as a consumer.
of malware may also have financial motives. For example, some malicious
programs are engineered to gain access to a computer user’s financial
information by recording keyboard actions and thereby capturing passwords. The
program will then return this information in some way to its author. Copyright
infringement can thus raise computer safety issues which incur, rather than
avoid, costs for users.
piracy is the practice of violating intellectual property rights by downloading
a file containing material copyrighted by someone else. The laws governing
Internet piracy are intended to secure the rights of creators, such as the
right to secure financial compensation through the process of making works
publicly available and acknowledge that there are certain forms of copying
which may not be allowed for or encouraged by creators which are nonetheless permissible
and not damaging to the creator’s rights.
A copyright infringementdefense may be mounted in a
court of law that refers to the prior such case, which is referred to as the
“fair use” doctrine and is allowed for under American law on Internet
piracy and other forms of intellectual property right violations. Failing a
successful copyright infringement defense, intellectual property right
violators may be liable for both criminal and civil penalties.
A civil suit over an act of
Internet piracy can open up the responsible party to compensating the copyright
owner for the damages to her or his ability to derive material benefit from the
content. United States statutes name damages of $30,000 and increased penalties
of $150,000 for cases in which the action was “willful.” Due to the
relatively brief amount of time for which most software has existed, even
intellectual property which is not being used commonly is likely to still be
subject to law, and the copyright infringement defense of
“abandonware” is, therefore, unlikely to hold water.
referred to as the “Safe Harbor” clause, which
establishes a means for service providers to enjoy safety from liability for
their users’ actions. Service providers who do not comply with its provisions
may be served with criminal or civil suits under a charge of vicarious
liability or contributory infringement.
circumstance of someone accused of Internet piracy not having been aware of
existing laws is not an admissible form of copyright infringement defense in
court when the defendant is accused of having personally committed the act of
internet piracy, but may be allowed when the defendant’s part was only
In addition to direct acts of Internet piracy,
copyright law also covers the means through which such actions are aided and
accomplished. The wide-ranging set of laws put in place by the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act cover actions aimed at “circumvention” of
the technical means through which copyright holders seek to block instances of
Internet piracy and various violations.