Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Intellectual Property Law 

Last night I reviewed the very basics of intellectual property law with my Mgt Info Systems (MIS) class. Why? Software licensing. I've covered this topic for years giving students a background on the evolution of the "rule of law", in brief, from the Greeks to the Romans to the Brits to the USA. It is not a course on law - just copyright protection.

My observations over the past few years are that more and more students openly admit they just don't pay when they download. I cover intellectual property, how it applies to software code, and use music as a parallel because they understand music copyrights. With music purchases, they understand that part of their cost of their purchase of sheet music, CDs, or downloads goes back to the creator. Some even realize that without paying, the incentive to reate may diminish. I use the same analogy with software licenses, that is, if you copy software to someone else's computer without paying for it, that's copyright infringement and a violation of the law.

Last night was disturbing. "I do it for my friends and family because they mean more to me than the company." "Bill Gates won't miss the money." "It doesn't matter - big companies cheat and game the copyright system so the little guy doesn't get anything." "Some cultures don't believe in paying for others' work." Heck, in _______, they contract with a vendor to make N copies and turn around and make 1.5x N and sell the .5 outside the system. Nothing happens to the manufacturer."Etc.

What is difficult to communicate is that once this "honor" system breaks down, it won't stop at copyright infringement. Students from places that have no "rule of law", that use connections to get things done versus a safe-guard process, find this concept difficult to grasp. I'm not sure what the answer is but some how we need to communicate that respect for the property of others, including intellectual property, must be enforced.