UK gov moves to bust bootleggers

New intellectual property crime strategy


The UK government's first intellectual property (IP) crime strategy was launched today by industry minister Jacqui Smith. Described as a blueprint to crack down on the trade in fake goods, the scheme involves closer inter-agency co-operation in the fight against pirates and bootleggers.

Intellectual property crime cheats consumers, costs jobs and helps fund organised crime, according to the government. It reckons piracy and counterfeiting (including counterfeit DVDs, perfumes, clothing and alcohol) costs the UK economy "billions of pounds" and undermines the success of many of the UK's best companies. Here the government is quoting industry figures which are wide open to question, as we'll see.

Today's national strategy, developed by the Patent Office, brings together brand owners, police, trading standards and customs to improve training; increase the sharing of intelligence and co-ordination between different agencies and to monitor progress and success by publishing an annual national enforcement report. The government doesn't say how much money has been earmarked to fund its anti-piracy strategy but pledges that efforts to put bootleggers out of business will be stepped up.

Jacqui Smith said: "Pirates and bootleggers cheat consumers and place a drain on our economy. We cannot and we will not simply turn a blind eye to copyright and trade mark crime."

"Intellectual property crime is not victimless. As well as cheating consumers, the trade in counterfeit goods costs UK companies billions of pounds and thousands of jobs every year. That is why we are working together with industry and law enforcement agencies to clamp down on this illegal trade," she added.

Loss leader

Music industry chiefs like EMI chair Eric Nicoli were quick to welcome the scheme and the Anti-Counterfeiting Group were at hand with helpfully alarming statistics. "Rights owners estimate that last year alone counterfeiting and piracy cost the UK economy £10bn and 4,000 jobs," it asserted.

Lobbyists like the Anti-Counterfeiting Group and the Business Software Alliance, which last month said that UK software piracy costs software publishers $1.6bn ($29bn globally) a year, have a vested interest in talking up the scope of the problem in their (largely successful) attempts to cajole politicians into action. "IDC estimated that a 10 point reduction in the piracy rate would generate an additional £10bn toward UK GDP, a further £2.5bn in tax revenues and 40,000 jobs in the IT sector within three years," the BSA asserted.

Compelling stuff. Or is it? It turns out that the study assumes that every piece of pirated software is a "lost sale". But IDC (which was commissioned by the BSA to conduct the study) reckons only one of 10 unauthorized copies might be a lost sale. Instead of describing the $29bn number as sales lost to piracy, John Gantz, director of research for IDC, said: "I would have preferred to call it the retail value of pirated software."

Robert Kruger, vice president for enforcement at the Business Software Alliance, was rather defensive when the New York Times questioned the conclusions it drew from IDC's research. "I don't think anyone in our industry has ever argued that every pirated copy is a lost sale. But even if the number is a little lower than $29bn, it is still a big problem," he said.

Piracy is a problem but maybe not to the extent the BSA or the entertainment industry says it is. And that in itself is a problem when misleading figures are allowed to influence policy formulation. The end result is draconian copyright laws that could inhibit the development of open source software, among other things. Meanwhile the disparity of CD and DVD prices between Europe and the US goes unchallenged because industry lobbyists have the ear of government. ®

Related stories

'Stealing songs is wrong' lessons head for UK schools
57 cuffed in UK anti-piracy crackdown
Cottage shop games pirate, spammer and pornographer jailed
Software pirates cost $9.7bn in Europe - BSA
Kill the EU IP Rights Enforcement Bill!


Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022