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Copyright infringement

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Question: Recently, the president of our company asked me to buy self-help and instructional CDs, along with several iPods, the purpose being to download materials from the CDs to the iPods and distribute them with our marketing materials to trainees who pay for training at our for-profit institute. I explained to my direct supervisor, who is the COO, that this may constitute copyright infringement, and therefore, could be an illegal activity.  She relayed this to the president of our company, who did not seemed concerned and, in essence, ordered me to copy these materials.  My question: If I do not copy the materials, am I being insubordinate?  -- Anonymous


I would think that in this post-Enron environment, you should be extremely careful. Check with legal aid or another authority to see if this is, in fact, illegal. If so, explain to your boss exactly what laws this violates, stating exact code sections. Say that you are sure s/he would not want to violate the law or ask you to either. Ask your legal advisor if there is another
way to do this without violation and suggest tyhe alternative to your boss.

I am wondering if your company purchased the CD if you can use through out the company. Also, not transferring to another computer coping to an Ipod. Not sure if that makes a difference.

Maybe you could read the instruction booklet that came with it and/or call the company and ask how many copies you can make. I would remain anonyomus.

Like Microsoft Office if your company purchases it you can use for 1 or 2 other computer but that is all.

You should be very careful when it comes to copyright issues. Contact the company you've purchased the CDs from or research this issue on their website.

Below is a link to copyright FAQ. You might want to do some research there and provide the information to the President of your company.

This is clearly a violation of copyright, especially when the materials are copied for a for-profit business. Your boss cannot order you to do something illegal, even if he wishes to be dishonest. This is why valid licenses and new software costs skyrocket each year. I would keep refusing to do so. If you are dismissed, then you have a very legal grievance against your company. If your company gets in trouble, I'll bet they'll put your fanny on the line and let you take the rap. Do the right thing girl. Say no.

Okay, the specific question was "is refusal insubordination"? The awful truth is, yes. It can be construed as insubordination, what it technically is, is refusal of a job assignment, which can be grounds for termination. I would certainly try to work around it first in ways such as the earlier commenters have suggested. I'm not sure but I do believe their are some positive legalities as long as the programs are used on company property only. Meaning the ipods are stricly co property issued to employees and not "given" to them, and to be returned upon termination. I also believe infringement rights could only be charged against the company and not you personally - unless you are an officer of the Co.

Now, back to you personally. Should you find out the worst, and feel in your concience that you must refuse the assignment, and are terminated for it. I don't know what state you are in but all states have laws to protect employees from illegal job assignments. I would start with the unemployent agency and get your unemployment started(which will be granted under these circumstances even if you quit) due to retalliation for refusing this assignment. Then you go to the labor board and the EEOC and file a complaint. And then possibly a lawsuit which the co will most likely settle with you. No judge or jury is going to look favorably upon either way you are terminated over this. Just be sure you know everything to be known, and you are indeed committing an illegal act or all of your leverage goes out the window and you are stricly committing an action worthy of termination. Good Luck !

Choose wisely.

Geosnoopy is absolutely correct; any software that is sold is sold as one license not multiple licenses to be loaded on additional hardware, unless it is sold as a multiple license you are in violation of the copyright law. The person who's company is copying software on two different computers is also in violation of the copyright laws, be very careful, all you need is one disgruntle employee reporting your company and you too will be in the news.

The first question your managment should ask is how they would feel if all of their training materials and products were duplicated and distributed to others without permission or payment for the R&D or development costs? Where would your company be without due compensation for the technical know how which is so easily reproduced once made into a tangible product or publication? Copyright protection is there to prevent this.

So, what can you do? Ask the company selling the CD's for a multiple-user license to make copies IN-HOUSE. If you are going to resell the materials as part of a training program, the vendor WILL find out. You should (and can) buy individual copies and include them in your training if you pay for each copy. Ask the vendor for a bulk discount.

Alternatively, you could arrange some kind of licensing deal with them whereby you can re-distribute the materials and, in turn, they receive (a) payment and (b) publicity and referrals for further training materials. This kind of a deal could result in a lower net cost to you for the materials and potentially wider distribution for the vendor. Perhaps the vendor hasn't thought of the iPOD route or Podcasts and your companies could collaborate on them.

Arrangements like these are made all of the time!

Finally, be aware that when you contact the vendor, they will be watching for potential copyright violations. You will be subject to wilfull damages. In fact, this posting along with your internal memos or emails could be potential evidence of wilfull copyright infringement. Even if you don't contact them, they will probably take notice of it eventually.

Good luck. (It's really a shame when employees are made to feel insubordinate when they raise ethical questions.)

General Business Conduct and Disclosure

A. Unethical actions, or the appearance of unethical actions, are unacceptable under any conditions. The policies and reputation of ECO depends to a very large extent on the following considerations.

Each employee must apply his/her own sense of personal ethics, which should extend beyond compliance with applica¬ble laws in business situations, to govern behavior where no existing regulation provides a guideline. It is your responsibility to apply common sense in business decisions where specific rules do not provide all the answers.

In determining compliance with this code in specific situations, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is my action legal?
2. Is my action ethical?
3. Does my action comply with corporate policy?
4. Am I sure that my action doesn't appear inappro¬priate?
5. Am I sure that I would not be embarrassed or compro¬mised if my action became known within the organization or publicly?

6. Am I sure that my action meets my personal code of ethics and behavior?

You should be able to answer "yes" to all these questions before taking action.

Each supervisor is responsible for the ethical business behavior of his/her subordinates. Supervisors must weigh carefully all courses of action suggested in ethical as well as economic terms and base their decisions on the guidelines provided by this code as well as their personal sense of right and wrong.

Implementation of the provisions of this code is one of the standards by which the performance of all levels of employees will be measured.

B. In recommending or proposing a particular business transac¬tion or course of action for approval, those involved must disclose to their superiors or to the board of directors of the organization, if the recommendation is to the board, all the pertinent information they know about such transac¬tions and the persons involved. The disclosure should include significant information that they may have reason to believe has been omitted by others.

C. Specifically, the organization does not tolerate the willful violation or circumvention of any laws of the United States, its states, counties, cities, or a foreign country by an employee during the course of that person's employment; nor does the organization tolerate the disregard or circumvention of corporate policy or engage¬ment in unscru¬pulous dealings. Employees should not attempt to accom¬plish by indirect means, through agents and interme¬diaries, what is directly forbidden.

Failure to comply with the standards contained in this code will result in disciplinary action that may include termination, referral for criminal prosecution, and reimbursement to the organization or the government for any losses or damage resulting from the violation. As with all matters involving disciplinary action, princi¬ples of fairness will apply. Any employee charged with a violation of this code will be afforded an opportunity to explain his or her actions before disciplinary action is taken.

Disciplinary action will be taken:

1. Against employees who authorize or participate directly in actions which are a violation of this code

2. Against any employee who has deliberately failed to report a violation or deliberately withheld rele¬vant and material information concerning a viola¬tion of this code

3. Against any supervisor who attempts to retaliate, directly or indirectly, or encourages others to do so, against any employee who reports a violation of this code.

Some very good advice here.

However, I would also recommend that you document everything. That way, if something does happen down the line, you will have the appropriate documentation. I would keep a log with all pertinent details and keep it on your person or at home. Good luck.

I would do as I am told. Then follow-up with an email stating that the task was completed 'per your request'. This email should be saved for future reference.

The only person who should be concerned about the copyright infringement is the person requesting the copies. I will ask our in-house counsel for more information.

Why don't you just contact the manufacturer of the CD or find out who's information it is and just ask them if you can copy it then you don't have to worry about it.

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