Intellectual property and copyright are key drivers of technological innovation in a country which ensure that individuals’ novelty is protected. This enhances the economic competitiveness of a country’s products and services across various markets. It also encourages innovators to invest their resources in the development of their products since they are sure they will reap the benefits. Copyright laws have been explicit in delineating what is protectable and what cannot be protected. This is crucial owing to the technological advancements especially through the growth of the Internet technology. Existent laws must determine what can be done without the need of a license. It also puts in place proper enforcement mechanisms that combat any acts of piracy. Therefore, it is essential that the law enforcement agencies ensure that the current copyright laws and policies are enhanced. This provides incentives for creativity and innovation while at the same time protecting novelty.
Importance of Strengthening Intellectual Property Laws
Stronger intellectual property laws are vital for protection of the competitive advantages that are enjoyed by industries. They ensure such industries reap the benefits of their massive investments in research and development. These laws create an environment that is conducive for economic growth and development. This is because most industries relying heavily on copyrights and intellectual property that are an integral part of the economy in most countries. Such industries like music, television shows, computer software, publishing, and most works of art rely on the strength of copyright laws for their survival. They provide employment to millions of people and also pay billions of dollars in tax that forms a substantial part of governments’ revenue (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2007).
The prevalence of strong copyright and intellectual property laws creates an enthusiasm for creativity and acts as an incentive to content creators and researchers in information technology fields. Growth of creativity and innovation in a country leads to evolvement of new business opportunities hence new employment opportunities. This leads to increased entrepreneurship levels in a country and acts as a huge boost to the economy due to creation of new employment and revenue streams.
Copyright protection provides various economic rights to content creators that give them control over use of their novel ideas and concepts by others (Fan, Gillan, & Yu, 2013). This is done through control of making copies of completed works, public performance, online use, and broadcasting. Such controls ensure that the creators of such content access full rewards for their creativity and investment. This acts as a motivation to them and is seen as the key motivator to these content creators when they set aside huge budgets for their research and development initiatives. This is because most innovators like maintaining their industry leadership status and also preserving their competitive advantages in their industries. It leads to increased innovation levels in the economy.
Counterfeiting and acts of piracy are illegal and often lead to proliferation of criminal networks over the globe. Most of the products and items they produce are substandard and pose health and safety risks to users that can sometimes be life threatening. This impedes innovation levels in the economy, thereby slowing growth. This is because most of the counterfeits are priced lower than the original products. Consumers who purchase the products are often deceived by the attractive price margins but in essence such products leave them worse off.
Innovation is known to be the main driver of economic growth and prosperity since it encourages exploitation of new ideas that lead to development of new products, procedures, and processes. These ideas are protected through patents, trademarks, and copyrights. If protection of these rights and patents is not guaranteed, then motivation lacks and this may slow down economic growth especially in developing economies (Nastase, 2011).
There seems to be impressive increase in the value of seizures which demonstrates the risk that counterfeits and pirated products pose to the growth of innovation and eventual growth of economy. The authorities must be extra vigilant in increasing these seizures since trade in counterfeits is a major threat to development.
Ways of Enforcing Intellectual Property and Copyright Laws
Today, policy makers are faced with the twin roles of retaining an efficient and meaningful copyright system and preserving the creative and innovative power of technology especially the Internet. This will ensure the free flow of information and content to desired targets or receivers without infringement or abuse of the rights of creators of such content.
The first way of enforcing intellectual property rights and copyright laws is through government action. This refers to various acts by governments to improve enforcement actions both locally and internationally. It is done through coordination and oversight, civil and criminal action, and also through international outreach. In the area of coordination and oversight, governments should create relevant agencies and bodies that enforce the already existent laws that regulate the sector (Fisher & Oberholzer-Gee, 2013). For example, the United States government has created the Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC). This agency is tasked with the role of enforcing the existent laws that safeguard intellectual property. Such laws include America Invents Act, Intellectual Property Act, and the Copyright Act.
The other way of enforcing intellectual and copyright laws is through civil and criminal action. It involves the swift prosecution of any culprits of acts of piracy and infringement of copyright and intellectual property. This is done through joint actions of government departments and agencies. For example, in the US, the Department of Justice and Homeland Security collaborates with relevant government bodies such as Federal Bureau of Investigations to ensure that offenders are apprehended and face the law. These government agencies have the power of seizure and forfeiture of all property used to commit acts of infringement. These government departments have programs such as ‘operation in our sites’ which monitors and seizes domain names used to circulate pirated and counterfeit content. Criminal prosecution is mainly handled by Department of Justice which has created a Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section that spearheads prosecution of culprits and also offers domestic and international training on enforcement strategies.
The other way of enforcing these laws is through international initiatives such as bilateral and multilateral initiatives. It ensures that governments collaborate and set aside adequate resources from their budgets to create specialized intellectual property law enforcement units in their jurisdictions. Such units should be composed of properly trained personnel so that they can have relevant expertise in investigating intellectual property and copyright crimes. There should also be increased coordination of the various agencies to make sure that there is no escalation of these crimes across boarders.
Governments through regional trading bodies such as the European Union should push for legislation that advocates for strict measures in sale and distribution of pirated and counterfeit software. Software producing companies should be required to provide relevant information in regard to their products such as cover price, transferability, and volumes.
There is also a need for governments to ensure that they maintain technology neutrality within their jurisdictions by advocating against policies that favor particular technology over others. There should be competition so that innovation levels can increase.
The public and private sectors must come together and educate the public on the roles of intellectual property rights in fostering innovation and development. This prevents members of the public, who are the main targets of pirated content, from purchasing these materials. They will also be proactive in knowing what to look for in order to avoid being duped by criminals who circulate such content.
Reasons Why the Internet Is Increasingly Being Used by Counterfeiters and Pirates
One of the reasons why the Internet is a favorite place for counterfeiters and pirates is anonymity. These criminals can easily conceal their identity and location which heavily reduces the risks of being detected.
There is also considerable flexibility whereby an online fraudster can establish online merchant accounts through which they can conduct their dubious business. These fraudsters can easily move such sites to jurisdictions where they know the intellectual property rights and copyright laws are weak.
Another reason why the Internet is so convenient for these criminals is due to the size of the market. The high number of e-commerce sites and high volume of listings make the intellectual property holders and the enforcement authorities have a difficult time monitoring any suspect intrusion. They mainly act after the offender has struck and this remains a huge challenge.
The global reach of the Internet at low cost and at any time makes counterfeiters have an opportunity to expand their illegal acts in order to boost their sales. It presents challenges to counter the acts of these fraudsters especially where there are no bilateral and multilateral efforts between enforcement agencies. The Internet also facilitates deceptive behavior of these fraudsters. This is because they can create professionally looking websites with contrived ratings of consumer experiences (Burke & Fraser, 2012). This gives a false sense of security amongst prospective customers and increases the likelihood of deception.
Some programs are illegal, but global collaboration between Microsoft, FBI, and the Chinese authorities led to their demise. It is difficult for a user to recognize the software as fake.