Author Topic: Intellectual Property Intellectual Property Theft  (Read 2412 times)

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Offline Mir Alihan

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Intellectual Property Intellectual Property Theft
« on: January 14, 2010, 03:02:49 PM »
“My key messages about the future--that everybody will be connected, and that computers will see listen and learn--have all been said before by other people.”

- Bill Gates, The Road Ahead

In today’s driven by money society , the idea of ownership of intellectual property is a hot topic. Currently government and private organizations are trying to pass legislation to deal with the loss of profit due to IP theft. However, many fail to see past the dollar signs to see the true ethical issues of plagiarism and theft of intellectual property. As said above our society, primarily that of our own Western society seems to value money more than ethical decisions. This creates a situation ripe for deceit, theft and unproductive behavior; all of which can be conceded as the spoils of plagiarism. Citizens, parents and students alike have seemingly bought into the idea that IP theft is little more than about money. Today with the injection of the Internet and computers into the classrooms teachers are struggling to put the ethics back into intellectual property.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) violations cost the U.S. economy billions in losses every year.   The software industry alone is estimated to lose between $12 and $15 billion each year. (U.S. Customs Today; Nov. 1999)  Therefore, greater access to information via the web come greater chances of theft of Intellectual Property of every kind.  “It is not new. What’s new is how easy it is.“ According to Theodore Glasser. (TechWeb News, Sept. 99) Generally we think of theft of Intellectual property simply as “plagiarism”; however, there are a variety of ways to steal the intellectual property of others besides this most commonly seen format.  Plagiarism, the act of passing as one’s own the ideas, images or writings of another, is the most commonly seen practice of IP within the school setting.  Strikingly similar is paraphrasing or only slightly changing original material and submitting as one’s own.

With the multitude of possibilities of the Internet and the computer, the concept of safeguarding IP reaches far past text and essays.  Today the computer is used to commit crimes of IP theft including those of images, music, sound, software, and many others.  Theft of IP with the use of computers/the Internet can be broken into three main categories: 1. Stealing with the web; 2. Stealing within the web; 3. Stealing from the web.

Educators and students are now producing websites, presentations, and papers that utilize material from the Internet.  In order to avoid public scrutiny and lawsuits, districts must require ethical use of Intellectual Property, but what is ethical use?  What is theft?


1 Stealing with the web

As stated above the Internet makes available a wealth of resources to an extremely large population of people.  With this wealth of information comes a wealth of opportunity to create illegal acts of theft of IP.  Today many people have been able to use the web in order to gain access to material without payment to the originator.  Sites such as Napster (recently shut down) and Kazaa allow people to access, download and “share” music, literature and images without payment to the artists responsible.  Sites such as these utilize the “community” aspect of the web in order to connect users with each other in order to share such pieces of IP freely.  Such sites use “shareware” in order to pass along IP unregulated. For more information on shareware please visit the site by the Association of Shareware Professionals

Recently such sites have come under fire from both artists and politicians for what they consider theft of IP even though many of these sites maintain that they cannot control the actions of the users of the sites and that the software/site has legal ramifications.  Court actions and legal issues of Napster can be accessed at the FindLaw web site.

 Recently, Congress has switched their aim not only at the creators of these sites but the users as well.  Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has even suggested that the computers of users who continue to commit theft of copyright materials via web should be destroyed. (USA Today, 6/03)

In addition to theft of literature and music, the Internet has also been a hot spot for illegal downloads of copyrighted software again without payment.  Some sites even make available to people free copies of copyrighted computer games, graphics software and movies.  Websites such as Pirated Warez has lists of software and movies users can download with the touch of a button.  Sites such as these deny the makers of such copyrighted material the payment owed to them as stated by law.


2 Stealing within the web

Stealing within the web includes the publication of plagiarized material on the web from other web sites or other outside sources.  Just as students can plagiarize material found on the web, so can the authors of websites plagiarize within the content of the site.  Most common offenses of such nature are those sites that publish copyrighted text/literature either as their own or without proper consent or notification.

Sometimes parts of text are published, but in many cases the literature is published in it’s entirety without rights given to the author.  Such is the case of the following site.  A seemingly harmless site focusing on the book The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, none the less the author of the site has published the book in full length without making note of the original Author’s copyright or even name; it can be viewed at Fish2UK.

Another commonly seen act of stealing within the web is the theft of visual imagery.  With the invention of clipart came the misconception that any image published on the web is consider public domain or fair use. Such is the case with the site listed below which openly states that images used within the site have been illegally copied.  This is a common practice of beginner webpage designers. Unless specifically noted as public domain or fair use all images published on the web are copyrighted and therefore illegal to reproduce without consent.(


 3. Stealing from the web

This last category of IP theft is the one that is of utmost importance for educators and the one that will be focused upon throughout this paper. This new technology has lead to something called “cyber-plagiarism” which is the process by which students either copy ideas found on the web without giving proper attribution or the process of which students download research papers from the web, In whole or in part, and submit as their own. (University of Alberta, 2002) 

In recent times plagiarism has been seen in high-profile charges of plagiarism against scholars such as Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose. Even with this rise into the scrutiny of plagiarism we cannot assume that plagiarism is on the rise; however, it may lead to certain assumptions. (Sandford, 2002)  The use of the web to plagiarize IP within student work is more prevalent today than ever before.  In the past teachers have always had to worry about students outright plagiarizing text and or paraphrasing with the intent to deceive, most often in essays or reports.  Today students are not only able to copy down paragraphs or lines from the libraries numerous books, now students can simply download entire term papers with the click of a mouse. 

 According to Nicholas van Rheede van Oudtshoorn (Oudtshoorn, 2003) The most common examples of plagiaristic activity include:   Buying a paper from term paper mills
   Turning in another student’s work as ones own
   Turning in a paper which uses a source without proper acknowledgment

Do we know if computer technology increased the amount of plagiarism?  This is not so easily discernable; however evidence from educators suggests that web-aided plagiarism is becoming the method of choice for the lazy and dishonest. (Ryan, 1998)  Term-paper mills such as “Evil House of Cheat” and “School Sucks” give the students the option of choosing from a variety of topics in order to print off and pass off as their own. (Clayton, 2003)  Some of these sites require payment while others offer this service free of charge. 

Based on several studies it seems that today students seem to plagiarize and commit acts of cheating and IP theft will very little debate or guilt.  According to Mersereau a 1991 survey conducted by Rutgers University found that 66% of 16,000 students from prestigious U.S. universities have cheated at least once.  Another survey by Who’s Who Among American High School Students found that 4 out of 5 high achievers in 1998 admitted to cheating on schoolwork. (Mersereau, 2002)

These acts of cyber-plagiarism not only pertain to text, but to images and music as well.  Students often lift images from web sites or other sources for use in student artwork and presentations such as power point.  Downloaded voice and sound clips are often included in such presentations without proper documentation as well.

Whether it is paraphrasing an article from the web, handing in a downloaded essay as their own, reproducing an image from the computer as their own or adding sound bites without permission today students are able to commit these crimes faster, easier and with much less guilt.  In fact many students today have become so accustomed to these procedures that they may not even be aware of the fact that what they are doing in illegal.  Students have become accustomed to using images and text without understanding the rules and laws pertaining to copyright.  Many students assume simply because they have access implies they have the right to use it as their own.  Today with such technology it is imperative that teachers not only understand copyright laws and regulations, but also educate their students as well.

Offline بلوچ

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Re: Intellectual Property Intellectual Property Theft
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2010, 08:44:38 AM »
Thanks for this informative sharing.