Which brings me neatly to a post I've been meaning to write for a while...
Sometimes I think it's right to infringe copyright.
Since I've been living in Mexico I've been trying to convince people of the need to respect intellectual property. They had previously been working on the assumption copyright infringement is inherently a good thing. My argument has been made very well many times before by many people, but to sum it up it is this: If the people of a country don't respect intellectual property they won't be interested in developing their own, and the country will be left further behind in the future world economy.
This point was driven home when one friend who does a radio program as part of his work looked to be in danger of losing his job and was trying to work out if he could still do the radio program. He asked me who owned the intellectual property involved in his program (he didn't know what type of IP it was, he just said the signature sounds, the format etc). My first question was what his contract had to say about it, and of course it didn't have anything to say because it hadn't occured to him until it was too late.
So far so froody... but once I had made a case for the importance of respecting intellectual property (so they understood the argument, even if it didn't follow through in actions) I then had to point out that their suspicion that corporations were abusing copyright was in many cases well founded. For example, I think that regional encoding goes against the very ideals of globalisation that many corporations stand behind with many of their business practices -- and in fact in my home land of Australia the process "breaks the spirit of the law, if not the letter" to quote Electronic Frontiers Australia. For that matter, copying something even for personal use is illegal in Australia, a situation I disagree with and conciously ignore. And to tie this post back into the beginning, companies often put onerous restrictions on their goods which not only deny "fair rights" usage but break the rights of their consumers -- Sony's DRM being a case in point. I just informed my wife of Sony's acts and told her not to buy any CDs from the label. If she really wants a band's album she should buy a pirated copy since it's the only way to ensure the CD is safe. I realise Sony has said that it has stopped using the technology, but I no longer trust the company.
Finally, there's the issue of education -- which my wife brought up expecting a fight only to find that I thoroughly agreed with her. Some of her classmates studying English wanted to photocopy some study materials that Karla had bought in Australia. They're not available here and even if they were the average Mexican certainly couldn't afford them. But these girls needed a good IELTS score to continue their studies overseas, so they could eventually return to Mexico and generate their own intellectual property, adding not only to the development of this country but also to the general belief that IP should be respected. Countries are not going to respect intellectual property unless they have a decent amount of their own. In that situation I think sharing the study guides is the right thing to do.
There's a more insidious aspect at work in the education sector. The same text books that retail in Australia for about $100 a sold for around $400 in Mexico. I cannot think of any reason why this should be so, except for the idea that some countries don't want other countries to become educated enough to develop their own IP. I can't argue against piracy in situations like this.
My end point is this: People need to be educated and learn about the importance of respecting intellectual property, so they can identify those times when it is right to break it.