bunn (bunn) wrote,

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Copyright and linking

I don't know if this post is really really obvious or not at all obvious.  Maybe not at all obvious, from the sheer quantity of copyrighted images, music, books and video flying around the web in places where the copyright owner has not authorised them to be.

I'm leaving entirely aside the issue of the morality of, say, ripping film off DVD and putting it on Youtube, or using a pirated copy of your music as a background for your own home movie. I'm not  arguing that one: we are in a position where the law is running behind the technology and this inevitably creates odd and irritating situations.

But, there seem to be people who unless I am missing something, do not realise that by doing this they are running a risk and potentially exposing their families to risk too.

For example, this guy : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-13788440.  He's a student who does commercial web design.  You'd think he would have had some idea that making money from a website with links to illegal content might possibly put his small business at risk and expose him to timeconsuming legal problems -  but I bet he didn't expect to be facing extradition.  (I believe the latest on this, by the way, is that he will not be extradited but tried in the UK though I've only heard that from Twitter so it could be wrong.)

But that's not the point.  If he had expected to face trial anywhere, even in the UK, even if he was likely to be eventually found not guilty - would he really have set the thing up?  Did he fully understand the issues around copyright and decide to make a principled stand for more freely distributed information and entertainment?  Or, more likely, did he not have the first idea of the potential risks and legal issues that he was exposing himself to?

I know that illegal content is everywhere, and this poor lad has obviously been picked out to make an example of.  But how many people who put up links on their blog or in an online community really understand that their online presence IS being tracked, by their ISP if by nobody else, and that if the police do come a-calling, the ISP will hand over all records? 

Do they understand that what they are doing could expose them to considerable legal hassle, even if they are eventually found innocent, and the only thing that is protecting them is that nobody has yet decided they'd make a good example?  Do they realise that if the internet connection is not in their name, the person whose name is on it could be the one to get it in the neck?  Do they even realise that other people might be reading their email? I suspect not.

All I can say is, when creating content for the web, if all of that content is not 100% yours and you think the copyright owner might not approve -  think hard and long about whether this is stuff you would happily go to court to defend, and before that, potentially lose internet access for an extended period and have other limits put on your computer use, even if you eventually were found innocent.

   It's not just students either.  I have many times had to explain to business owners that no, we can't just take copies of photos off other people's websites and use them on their commercial website, and that doing this is a risk.

I suspect most people reading this already know all this very well, and the hordes of people that don't, won't read this post. Hey ho.

EDIT : I'm not saying, don't link anything, or that technically-illegal stuff is morally wrong.   I'm saying: copyright law is messy, complicated and has the potential to royally muck your life up.  It is a good idea to take it seriously. If you have thought about it and are pretty sure that the most likely outcome of a particular technical breach of the law is having to reply penitently to a stern email and maybe remove some content, great.

But plenty of people seem to be taking larger risks with the kind of content that is likely to be protected vigorously by scary lawyers - and for what? Is it really worth the risk of becoming an example, for free music or DVD content? Maybe for someone who strongly believes in the principle of free information - but I'm not convinced that is the only motivation here.  
Tags: loons, news, technology, work
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