Even Giants Have to Grow Up Eventually

(This blog is based on comments by Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid during the November 1, 2017 Copyright Alliance panel discussion on “Copyright Pirates’ New Strategies”)

Breaking News: Piracy is a big problem. Okay, so maybe this isn’t “breaking news” but it is a problem and something needs to be done to fix it.

There has been much research on piracy over the years. Some of this research has shown that:

• More than 430 million people seek pirated content every month.

• People illegally download over $7 billion worth of pirated music annually.

• 33% of the videos streamed on YouTube that display advertisements are uploaded illegally.

A recent report by Digital TV Research found that piracy losses for streaming services will reach $52 billion between 2016 and 2022. The figure is for streaming services-only and does not account for losses by traditional pay TV. Another report by Brett Danaher released on October 30, 2017 found that taking actions against piracy sites can make piracy so inconvenient that consumers will turn their behavior from illegal sources to legal ones.

But at the end of the day, this research should be irrelevant. That’s right, you heard me correctly – irrelevant.

Copyright owners should not have to justify their support for effective copyright enforcement by showing how much money they are losing to piracy. That’s not the point.

We have long had a social compact in which we agree to pay for things that we want that are for sale in the marketplace. That social compact has been broken.

The average person would not think of stealing a CD, a book or a DVD. But those same values do not translate to their digital cousins – ebooks and digital movies and music. There is a common misperception that if its digital, then no work or creativity went into it and it’s not worth paying for. But this belief misses the point. The actual cost of the paper or plastic on which these copyrighted works are embedded is not the greatest expense in creating these works. The value (and expense) of these works comes from the money, time and creativity of our nation’s creators. That has always, and will always, be the case.

Unfortunately, we have turned into a society where it has become commonplace for consumers to turn to pirated content to avoid payment. As a result, the value of content has become systematically devalued and it’s harder than ever for our nation’s creators to make a living.

Can there really be any doubt that piracy harms creators through revenue, time and money lost to online enforcement and decreased incentives to create? Do we really need mounds of research to show this?

It’s not just the creators who are harmed by piracy. Consumers who access pirate sites are 28 times more likely to be infected by malware and spyware than those who access legitimate content online. Small businesses trying to create innovative new services and business models are harmed when they find it impossible to compete with those who don’t have the same expenses because they steal the content. Governments lose tax revenue and incur increased enforcement costs. The economy is harmed through reduced economic growth, weakened nation’s competitiveness, and decreased job creation caused by decreased incentives to create.

Clearly, more needs to be done to stop piracy.

Online platforms argue that subjecting them to the same type of responsibilities that traditional businesses have long been subject to will break the internet. Many of these internet giants are built on a foundation of content that is used to entice users to their sites and much of this content is protected by copyright. Does anyone really think that internet giants, like Google and Facebook, will crumble if they take on some reasonable and responsible business practices to protect against theft of this content? Break the internet, really?

The internet has moved past its adolescent years and into its 20s. It’s time these internet giants grow up too and take on more responsibility for protecting the content that draws the eyes and ears of their users.

Photo Credit: Bet_Noire/iStock/thinkstock

Watch the clips from the panel below:




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