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Copyright laws need revamping

Laws need to strike balance between consumer and creator rights

Brandon Meawasige
Sputnik (Wilfrid Laurier University)

For university students, classroom life involves long lessons and intimate relationships with laptops, handouts, and textbooks. The purpose of these tools is to help students read, discover and retain the intellectual property of other people through records of their findings, discoveries and creations.

Outside of the classroom, most students use the same level of public information to get their hands on other people’s intellectual property. This version will not be found on a midterm exam or in a paper, but rather in earphones and on monitor screens. Obtaining music and movies for free online is about as easy, if not easier, than getting a peer-reviewed academic journal article. But certainly the student is not to be blamed. Students, who enjoy a special level of poverty, can put $15 to better use than buying the new Kings of Leon album.

In Canada, laws prevent people from obtaining copyrighted materials without legal purchase or consent from the original owner, yet students are allowed to use the intellectual property of others for academic purposes. So how does that differ from using similar property for a recreational purpose?

It doesn’t. In fact, downloading music can be less harmful than basic research. Students research and read all the time and the amount of writing that is produced creates an interesting environment for true “ownership” of an idea.

In essence, the artist who created a song is no different from the philosopher who creates an idea. Copyright laws in Canada must find a way to incorporate this reality into the laws. Casual file sharing should be more frowned upon than illegal.

The University of Western Ontario in London has a file-sharing system for the campus through which music and movies can be shared online amongst the student body free of charge. This type of “copyright infringement” should be seen as a productive way to share intellectual property. In a closed environment like a university campus, file sharing and the usage of intellectual property seems almost natural.

Anything is good in moderation, of course. People with entire libraries of downloaded music could be more supportive of the music industry.

However, as a person who has never downloaded a song in his life, I can say that the sharing of intellectual property has a place, not only on university campuses, but within a greater society as well. An effective compromise between creators, owners and consumers should be a goal for those concerned with copyright laws in Canada.

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