I have spent nearly 20 years working in and for businesses that create intellectual property. In that time I have come up against every justification for purchasing counterfeit goods. One of the most common being “I wouldn’t have bought the real handbag anyway”. Or in the case for downloading pirated music or films “It doesn’t really hurt anyone”. It can be hard for people to make the connection between a seemingly innocent activity and organised gangs that are also involved in other serious criminal activity.
The IP Crime Report shows that this activity is prevalent across the whole of the UK. The report highlights some successes in the fight against criminal activity that takes the creativity and ideas of others and uses it for illegitimate means.
What’s being done?
Operation Jasper was a ground-breaking initiative coordinated by the National Markets Group. They directed resources from over 60 public and private sector organisations towards criminal activity on Facebook. The result was the removal of thousands of listings for counterfeit goods along with many profiles. Alliance members (Anti-Counterfeiting Group, BPI and Federation Against Copyright Theft) helped make this happen.
An operation like this highlights the level of criminal activity online and the need for coordinated responses. This helps develop best practice by drawing on expertise from across a wide range of agencies.
Budgetary pressures on the police and trading standards mean that those seeking to protect their brands, designs, content and ideas need to find innovative ways to reduce harm to their current and future success. This is also true in the online sphere. The sheer volume of counterfeiting and piracy means that it is not possible to target every individual responsible for running a pirate website nor to take down that website with ease.
Disruption and prevention solutions include the ‘follow the money’ approach. This targets the revenue pirate websites generate through advertising as well as the payment systems used to move their money. With the cooperation of industry, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), through Operation Creative, is achieving measurable success in this area. At the same time they continue to target organised criminals online through arrests and domain takedowns.
There is also the need for strong deterrents. The Alliance has campaigned for changes to the Copyright Designs & Patents Act. They want to increase the criminal sanctions for online copyright infringement to match those for physical goods. We are now awaiting government proposals to carry this forward following the consultation in the summer. This would create a powerful disincentive to those running pirate websites or involved in the wholesale distribution of pirated content. The other side of the coin is ensuring that consumers are able to discover and access legitimate content online. The launch this month of Get It Right From A Genuine Site is an important step towards this aim. The campaign is using TV and radio ads, online activity and events in cities across the UK.
Creativity is the theme of the campaign. The UK’s largest ever multi-city street art project highlights the work and talent of local creators through a series of giant murals.
It’s inevitably true that, as with other criminal behaviour, we will never get rid of counterfeiting and piracy. What we can do is create the best possible environment for legitimate content to flourish. We also need to encourage everyone, young and old, to use genuine sites and services to buy goods and content. This will help the UK maintain its position as one of the world’s great centres of creativity and generate jobs and new opportunities for innovation.