Monday, March 31, 2008

Funding Terror Through IP Piracy

I have written about protection of intellectual properties on several occasions (here, here, and here). Some of the comments on these posts also offer interesting insights. Intellectual property rights are murky and problematic.

Is it OK for you to make a copy of a DVD you have purchased for your own private use? I don’t care what the laws actually say, most people would say yes.

Is it OK to make a copy of a DVD your friend owns for your own personal use? It is my opinion (and that of the law) that this crosses the line. This is known as IP piracy.

In many countries there is a thriving industry in IP piracy. Now the U.S. Attorney General is saying that terrorist groups and syndicated crime groups are using IP piracy to fund their operations (see AP article).

People in Hollywood make movies and put them out for sale on DVD. Pirates burn copies and sell them cheaply with very low overhead. Not only are Hollywood movie makers ripped off, but the people buying the pirated movies are funding terror and organized crime. That’s much worse than copying your friend’s DVD or CD.


Jesse Harris said...

In other news, the sun sets in the west and there's continued strife in the Middle East. Any counterfeit good will necessarily require organized crime's involvement in order to be produced and distributed. They've been doing material goods like clothing and cigarettes for decades. DVDs are just the next money-maker for them.

What I'm worried is where the recording and movie industries will go with this argument. Likely they'll use this as further fuel for the propaganda machine that file sharing funds terrorism even though no money is changing hands at all, continuing to pretend that BitTorrent isn't used for, say, downloading Linux, distributing game patches or allowing folks to download movies unencumbered by copyright. You know, legit uses of the technology. It's like the old "video tapes are the Boston Strangler" argument all over again.

Reach Upward said...

Jesse, thanks for your observations. I should be used to looking for the ulterior motive when government officials raise cries of this nature. As you note, such cries are often followed by something along the lines of, "This means that we need to restrict the rights of U.S. citizens."

David said...

I think Jesse is right that we need to be careful not to let these facts be used as an excuse to suspend our liberty - we should definitely apply the law to prosecute those who profit through IP piracy, but let's not pretend that we will somehow stamp out crime if we could just lock the technology down.

What this should mean for individuals is that there are some important reasons not to save a dollar by buying pirated copies of what we want. I once bought a DVD set that, though I didn't know it at the time, I am now convinced was pirated (in China) - it's not worth the money saved, especially when you consider where my money might have been going. I'm much more careful now when a deal looks a little too sweet.