The Brief: Law School News and Events

Piracy Hits Economy to Tune of $60 Billion

Most people equate piracy with the music industry. But FCC Commissioner Deborah Tate says unauthorized reproductions also hurt the software, apparel, pharmaceutical and auto parts industries — and altogether cost the American economy nearly $60 billion a year in lost revenues.

That is why Tate has made eliminating piracy a priority.

Tate, who spoke to the Penn Intellectual Property Group last December, said she favors a market-based solution over government regulations. She said the Walt Disney Co., for example, is attempting to eliminate piracy by reducing pricing.

In order to protect their intellectual property, other companies, she said, are applying digital watermarks and fingerprints to online media. The digital markers enable networks to scan for copyrighted materials and prevent downloading. Installation of Audible Magic software, which blocks illegal peer-to-peer file sharing, resulted in an 80 percent decrease in network traffic on one college campus, Tate said.

Tate advocated cooperation between industries and university campuses, where college students commit piracy at a higher rate than the general population. A study conducted at two major universities found that 58 percent of students illegally shared files, congesting networks and costing the schools millions in infringement claims. When the University of Florida realized the impact on its budget, the school implemented a monitoring system which virtually eliminated infringement claims, said Tate.

Other solutions include teaching primary school students to respect intellectual property rights and learn the legal consequences of piracy, said Tate. She said the government can mandate anti-piracy education in public schools which use federal funds to connect their students to the Internet.