Recent Study Emphasizes Need for Anticipated IP Strategy

Jan 22, 2010

Online piracy represents ten percent of all U.S. books downloaded from the Internet, accounting for potential revenue losses to publishers of $2.75 - 3 billion according to a new study. These stunning numbers and other findings are included in Attributor’s U.S. Book Anti-Piracy Research Findings.

So what, you ask? It’s simple: this alarming statistic means that many peoples’ jobs and livelihoods are eaten away by the online theft of copyrighted materials. And we’re not only talking about the jobs of well known authors such as John Grisham or Stephen King, but the people who work behind the scenes—editors, printers, administrative assistants, and so on.

The theft of intellectual property (IP)—so called “creations of the mind” such as books, movies, and music—through online piracy is a serious problem that is only getting worse. In the music industry, for example, it is estimated that 95% of all downloaded songs are done so illegally. Yet in the eyes of many, these illicit activities are often viewed as “okay” because the books, movies, and music can be found easily online. However, when asked if it’s “okay” to walk into a store and steal a hardback or lift a CD, everyone agrees that’s a crime.

As with nearly every crime, there are victims. In this case, it is the jobs of many hard-working Americans who make their living in these industries. Jobs are jobs, and when 10 percent of an industry—in this case book publishers—finds 10 percent of their products stolen, it hurts, and something must be done about it.

Creative industries such as books and music are not the only sectors hurt by IP theft. Patent and trademark heavy industries that we rely on every day—from pharmaceuticals and automotive, to computer and apparel sectors—have also been harmed. Many Americans work—or at least used to—in these fields.

The U.S.-based Center for Medicine in the Public Interest predicts that this year, counterfeit drug sales will reach $75 billion across the globe—an increase of 90 percent over the past five years. In the auto parts industry, the Federal Trade Commission projects that counterfeiting costs the industry $12 billion a year in lost sales, and in America alone this correlates into potential job losses reaching 250,000.

Across all industries, counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually, are responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and have resulted in a deluge of dangerous and defective products in the marketplace. These are serious threats that need remedying, not only if we are going to protect consumers, but also to save jobs and grow America’s anemic economy.

This, of course, accentuates the importance of Victoria Espinel and her role as the first-ever U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (U.S. IPEC). The new U.S. IPEC has an opportunity to bring together anti-counterfeiting and piracy efforts into a comprehensive national strategy that the White House and Congress can rally behind, and hopefully, fund and support. Such a plan will need to address the rampant counterfeiting and piracy that is happening every day, especially the problem that today’s Attributor report draws out.

America is in a time of great economic unrest, and lawmakers and administration officials are looking for ways to save jobs and jumpstart the economy. When online piracy represents 10 percent of sales in a valued multi-billion dollar industry such as book publishing, enforcing IP laws is a good place to start.

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