Software Piracy and Copyright Laws: United States versus Vietnam
"Software piracy is the unauthorized duplication, distribution or use of computer software". Five main types of software piracy exist: publisher patent and copyright infringement, industrial piracy, corporate piracy, reseller piracy, and home piracy. Software piracy is a large global issue, which has become a more pressing issue due to a number of reasons: software is now easier to distribute on a global scale due to global access to the internet; culturally, people have not been taught that copying software is like stealing; a physical component does not need to be manufactured; and finally individuals state that they cannot afford the high cost of software and state that they would not use the pirated software if they had to pay for it.1
Software piracy is being dealt with on a global level by implementing global copyright laws. However, to date, no completely successful way has been implemented to deal with copyright issues. I believe that software piracy is unethical, but copyright laws need a fine balance between the rights of the copyright holders and the fair use rights of the individual. The Berne convention implements copyright laws that many nations of the world have signed. The US has taken extreme measures to protect copyright with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA not only protects copyright owners, but it has been used to infringe on fair use and has promoted anti-competitive actions. Vietnam is on the other extreme. It has finally started to implement and enforce copyright laws, but due to cultural, economic, and legal views, it still has one of the highest software piracy rates in the world. Both the United States and Vietnam's enforcement of copyright have ethical issues.
II. US and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
The United States passed its first software specific copyright law in 1980 with the advent of the Computer Software Copyright law. It states that computer programs and databases are explicitly protected as literary works, and therefore are protected by previous copyright laws.2 In 1998, the US expanded the protections given to copyright holders greatly by implementing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA is divided into two major sections. First, it created laws against "circumvention devices" used to get around copyright protection. Second, it protects ISPs from copyright liability as long as they take down the offending information quickly after being notified.3
Some problems have been brought up with the DMCA, and some of its uses have been ethically questionable. The DMCA does not allow people to publish the source code to circumvention devices, and this could constitute violating their first amendment rights. Another issue is that ISPs are very weary about hosting copyrighted material, and therefore take down any content that is requested...