Attitude Toward Content Theft Fuels Free-Riding on Others’ Inventions & Counterfeits of Branded Products
The ease of downloading copyrighted content on a computer or smart phone is at the core of an explosion of IP abuse that also impacts branded goods and patented inventions.
Record labels, film studios and publishing houses are among those most directly affected by copyright infringement on the Internet. But musicians, authors, luxury brands and inventors, and thousands of industry jobs and businesses, also are among those feeling the impact of a rapidly growing culture of free-riders. More than 50 pirate political parties and groups in the U.S. and Europe are a symptom of a much greater disease.
Theft of IP rights has not only become acceptable in some circles, it has become fashionable. It feeds off of the ease of digital file sharing and knock-offs, and affects struggling artists and inventors, as well as businesses of all sizes.
The Court of Public Opinion
In the court of public opinion copyrights and brands have fared poorly. Theft of digitally rendered content and counterfeits is easily achieved and difficult to stop. Patents have not done much better. A cultural disdain for IP rights has emerged, facilitated in part by businesses that stand to profit from free content, look-alike goods and others’ inventions, and end users who don’t give a damn.
“He’s No Robin Hood,” my Intangible Investor column appearing in the current (November) IAM, looks at the broader implications of the acceptance of file sharing. Some excerpts from the article:
“File sharing promotes a culture of piracy that makes it more acceptable to steal branded goods and inventions, as well as content. Big daddy Kim Dotcom is sticking it to all IP holders.
“Exhibit A for the legitimization of IP theft is Kim Dotcom Schmitz. Dotcom has slyly built himself into a modern folk hero, replete with a mellow “gangsta” style and outsider reputation. (He is a champion gamer and car racer.)
“This larger-than-life, medallion-wearing bad boy looks like he is deserving of a modest scolding and a heath club membership, not 20 years behind bars. That’s what he and his supporters would like you to believe. In fact, his illegal businesses has generated more than 66 million illegal subscribers and has helped to make file sharing acceptable and dismantle the recording industry.”
“Megaupload and the twilight of copyright” by Roger Parloff in Fortune is an extremely timely article that helps to put file sharing into criminal perspective. It illustrates how in the space of twenty years we went from a society where copyright served the needs of emerging artists and authors, as well as businesses, to one where IP is perceived to impede technological innovation and freedom of expression.
This article truly is a must read for anyone interested new ideas or IP rights. It also serves as a wake-up call for patent holders who expect their rights to be upheld.
Illustration source: techwireasia.com; fortune.com