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James Hirsh's

A brief primer on copyright law and the characters in the fight over content

Copyright law was originally created in the early 18th century as a way of combatting the printing of material by people not directly licensed by the authors of the content. The idea behind copyright is quite simple: the person who creates an original work has the exclusive right to print, distribute and license their work.Essentially, it has always been about the ability of a producer to financially benefit from their work. This was a relatively simple process when copyright applied only to written material that has grown increasingly complicated as technology progressed.One of the most unique and interesting things about copyright law is that we are all constantly breaking it. If you have downloaded or streamed movies, television, music or other media from the internet, you have likely violated the rights of copyright holders.The Copyright Act of Canada gives exclusive right to publish and proliferate a work to the copyright holder. When you download movies from torrent websites or rip music off a friend’s hard drive or even when you watch clips on youtube, there is a very good chance that you are infringing on the rights held by the person who created that work or the person who owns that work.Clearly this creates a bit of a paradox. It is difficult to understand something as a law if it also being constantly violated. For example, we all know that arson is against the law, and this does not strike anyone as particularly provocative or controversial. We understand that we should not set fire to other people’s things and we accept that people who commit arson will be punished. Even people who disagree with the arson laws as they exist now are unlikely to start setting things ablaze or encourage and facilitate others to commit arson.But with the increasingly unlimited… Read More