Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - Almanac Vol. 56, No. 4
The success of Sweden's Pirate Party prompts a reflection on the reasons for copyright law. The Swedish party now holds a seat in the 2009 European Parliament and Pirate Parties in 33 countries decry patents and advocate for decriminalizing file sharing.
Copyright law traces back to English law. With the Statute of Anne in 1710, Parliament limited the monopoly enjoyed by Crown-chartered publishing and bookselling guilds with fixed term limits.
Framers of the US Constitution distrusted sanctioned monopolies but saw the economic benefit of Britain's Statute of Anne. The US Constitution thus charges Congress with promoting "The Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Subsequent US Copyright Law grants limited-term monopolies, after which work enters the public domain, in order to stimulate further creativity and advancement.
Violation of US Copyright is a violation of Penn policy. Software piracy can come about when more software copies are installed, or when copies are made in violation of the license. This subjects Penn and individuals involved to civil and possibly criminal penalties, as well as unfavorable publicity. In 2000, Temple University paid $100,000, and in 1997, the City of Philadelphia paid $121,000, to settle claims of illegal software copying.
Be sure to budget appropriately for your software purchases. Make sure that you are getting the best price for software. Check with the Penn Bookstore and Penn's Office of Software Licensing for favorable volume purchase prices. See www.business-services.upenn.edu/softwarelicenses/