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For the people who make their living creating and selling movies, songs, video games, and software programs, the effort to stop piracy is a constant battle. Protecting intellectual property rights requires using several different approaches while adjusting to a marketplace with a never ending appetite for new content. Even though the general public may think of piracy as a victimless crime, this form of copyright infringement damages the creative professional's ability to earn a living from his work.
Public education campaigns are typically considered the first line in the defense against piracy. To help stop piracy of DVD movies, for example, filmmakers started putting a short commercial at the beginning of each disc equating buying a pirated copy of a DVD to shoplifting. Individual artists, ranging from celebrity musical acts like Metallica to the stay-at-home mothers who sell digital scrapbooking kits in their free time, frequently speak out against piracy when talking to their fans. Grassroots organizations also work to educate the public about intellectual property rights through online marketing campaigns.
Technology has been a key component in helping to stop piracy. Music companies have been experimenting with ways to put anti-copying software onto the CDs they sell. Software programs can be created to require authorization codes or online registration forms that serve to make piracy more difficult because they are only given with legal copies. For downloadable content, digital rights management systems limit the number of devices that can play a particular movie or song in order to stop people from sharing unauthorized copies. On a similar note, some sites are selling downloadable files with a digital fingerprint that makes it possible to trace pirated copies back to the original source. Unfortunately, resourceful hackers and people in the piracy industry continue to find ways to get around these measures.
Lawsuits may seem like an obvious way to stop piracy, but legal action is typically a last resort. With the global nature of the Internet, it is time consuming and expensive to track down all the parties that would be involved in a lawsuit. Piracy laws also vary from country to country, making enforcement rather difficult. For large corporations, negative publicity is a factor as well. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) came under fire in 2000 for suing thousands of individuals accused of illegally downloading copyrighted songs through Napster®, including college students, stay-at-home parents, and retirees.